Alabama junior Shaquera Wade weaved a ball between her legs as she reminisced on her journey as a basketball player. While she talked for almost 30 minutes, the ball hit the ground just once, and it was only so she could tie one of her loose shoes. Admittedly, Wade never likes to let go of the basketball.
Inside the Coleman Coliseum media room, Wade is a long way from her first basketball memory on the blue and white floor of the Boys and Girls Club in Huntsville. Back then, she was scrambling to complete all of her homework so the Boys and Girls Club supervisor would let her be the first person in the gym after elementary school.
South Carolina vs. Alabama
When: 6 p.m. Thursday
Where: Coleman Coliseum
Records: South Carolina 18-5 (7-3), Alabama 14-9 (4-6)
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 93.9 FM
Most of the time that supervisor was Calvin Fletcher, who doubled as Wade’s first basketball coach in the Boys and Girls Club developmental league, a basketball league that Fletcher created for players around the age of 5.
“Anything she could do after school to get in the gym she would do,” Fletcher said. “She even used to ask if she could sweep the floor. I remember telling her to go in (the gym) and sweep the floor, and when you went back she had already swept the entire floor and had a pile of trash in the corner with a basketball in her hands. Either that, or she was still sweeping the floor and dribbling a basketball at the same time.”
The Boys and Girls Club was the first place the future Alabama Sports Writers Association Miss Basketball award winner would make a name for herself, dominating games while playing on a boys team until she reached middle school.
Because of Wade’s success, the after-school program started to see a significant increase in the number of female players, according to Fletcher. Who added that the first and second place girl’s basketball teams in the city of Huntsville last season had players from the Boys and Girls Club.
“Somewhere there’s a picture of me being the only girl on the boy’s team,” Wade said. “Everybody would love on me and be like, ‘She’s the only girl out there (beating) all of you little boys.’ It was a lot of fun, and it was pretty cool knowing that I was the only girl out there.”
Her influence is the reason Wade’s photo still hangs in the Boys and Girls Club office today, and she is used as a constant example by those who work there. Her old coach often asks her to come back and visit some of the children that are in the gym now, and she likes to bring her former supervisors gifts such as Alabama women’s basketball posters.
“She’s like the poster child for Boys and Girls Club kids,” Fletcher said. “We talk about going to college, coming out of a single-parent home and all of the things that they have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. Shaquera, she beat all of those odds.”
It came as no surprise to Fletcher when Wade was also announced as Gatorade State Player of the Year in high school. He kept up with all of Wade’s accolades throughout her time at Huntsville High School, and Wade knew that Fletcher was a big reason why she was so invested in the game.
“The staff (at the Boys and Girls Club) saw the potential in me, and the talent that I had,” Wade said. “They would stay on my mom with the due dates, and fees and stuff like that. They would tell my mom, ‘Hey, don’t let this go to waste. We see potential in her.’ It was like having another family.”
When Alabama coach Kristy Curry took the job in 2013, the first player that she recruited was Wade. She signed with the Crimson Tide two years later, and Wade’s family knew that Curry would be another great influence because the coach spoke in the same tone as her mother.
“My mom was so excited,” Wade said. “She was cheesin’ from ear to ear. I love when my mom smiles, and that was the happiest moment ever for me. Out of the three children that she has had, for her to see one of us do something that no one has ever done in my family, that was special. She had someone go on to play college basketball, and go to college.”
Now through most of her junior season at UA, Wade said her journey from the Boys and Girls Club to the most competitive conference in college basketball is the reason she feels ready to take over the leadership of this program next season. And that will not be easy, because the Crimson Tide will lose its six of its current seniors.
However, Wade is not looking ahead, because that would go against everything coach Curry has preached to her the last three years.
“It’s her ability to look at where she has been, and know what she needs to do to improve,” Curry said. “From her time in the film room, to the gym, to the coachability, the maturity, I’m just so proud of it all.”