PHOENIX — Zaire Wade’s team got the better of Shaqir O’Neal’s when the two teams matched up Wednesday at the NCAA College Basketball Academy.
Wade’s team, called the 1981 Indiana Hoosiers, beat O’Neal’s 1982 UNC Tar Heels by a score of 75-50.
Wade showed his flashy skill set with some step-back shots, crafty passes and overall aggression on the court. During drills, some of his best work came on off-balance or fadeaway shots in the midrange, but he had some success with a step-back three during the games.
Houston Rockets guard James Harden gave him some pointers during NBA All-Star Weekend.
“Obivously, Harden is the step-back king in the NBA,” said Wade, who is also a left-handed shooter. “He was just telling me how the footwork works for him on the stepback, and just get in the gym and apply it to my own game.”
Overall, Wade sees himself as a playmaker, and he’s not afraid to make a flashy pass.
“I don’t try to make them flashy, but when the defense reacts, it’s just a reaction,” he said.
O’Neal only had a few looks during the game. The majority of his shots came in catch-and-shoot situations. Fittingly, he compared his play style to that of Golden State Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson.
Needless to say, he’s not to Thompson’s level yet. The Warriors guard is the pinnacle of catch-and-shoot guards; he’s always in motion, coming off screens, finding space, and one of the great 3-point shooters in league history.
O’Neal, a shooting guard — unlike his dad Shaquille or brother Shareef — has a ways to go to be a feared knockdown shooter. Part of that will come as he gains confidence, which is vital for a shooter.
“When I was younger I (lacked confidence), but it’s improved more,” O’Neal said. “People trying to put me down just because of who I am and my family.”
Now that he’s able to dunk over his 6-foot-9 brother, his confidence is bound to improve. There were multiple times O’Neil got the rebound and took the ball upcourt himself. When he penetrated the lane, he found teammates for passes.
As he polishes different aspects of his game and increases his confidence, he thinks he can become one of the best players in his area.
Other players looked good outside those two marquee names.
Alex Fudge, a 6-foot-7 small forward from Robert E. Lee High School (Jacksonville, Florida), is one of the bouncier players in the camp. During drills, he was dunking everything, and even dunked over a defender in a drill Tuesday.
But he isn’t yet able to absorb contact efficiently. He nearly had two poster dunks Wednesday, but wasn’t able to complete them and instead went to the line for free throws.
If the 2021 SF can get stronger and become a step quicker on defense – there are times he doesn’t react quite fast enough – his recruitment should pick up. His 7-foot wingspan and athleticism are hard to come by.
Five-foot-11 point guard Zion Ruckard looked to be a master at driving to the lane and kicking it out from under the hoop. In the game against the Tar Heels, he created several looks, whether to his target or as a hockey assist, to help the team get ahead in the second half.
Ruckard is a 2020 student at Eaglecrest High School (Aurora, Colorado).
Hunter Sallis, a 6-foot-6 guard out of Millard North (Omaha, Nebraska), is a solid ball handler and shooter and showed the ability to cut into the lane and get open looks underneath the basket. He graduates in 2021.
He said his ability to get to the rim unimpeded as an off-ball guard comes with his court vision and “finding hope holes, just going wherever it’s open.”
Overall, the Hoosiers outplayed the Tar Heels. O’Neil cited fatigue when evaluating his own performance; the teams have gone through two days of drills and each had two games on Tuesday. This was the first for both teams Wednesday.
With the camp winding down, players will continue trying to show out for the college coaches in attendance.