Column: Sierra Canyon’s star-filled basketball roster is worthy of a media day
When Zaire Wade, the oldest son of Dwyane Wade, got a text last week from Sierra Canyon coach Andre Chevalier, he wasn’t quite sure what to think.
“He said we were having a media day and I was like, ‘Wow, for real?’ ” Wade said. “I’ve never been a part of a media day before.”
It might seem odd for a high school basketball team to stage a media day similar to the ones the Lakers and Clippers held earlier this month, complete with photo shoots, news conferences and catering, but Sierra Canyon isn’t your normal prep squad. In addition to Wade, the team features LeBron James’ son, Bronny, Ziaire Williams, who is being recruited by North Carolina and Duke, Terren Frank, who is headed to Texas Christian, Brandon Boston Jr., who has committed to Kentucky, and Harold Yu, a 7-foot-2, 230-pound center from China.
In March, Sierra Canyon became the first team to win back-to-back Open Division championships and was led by Scotty Pippen Jr. and Kenyon Martin Jr. The program’s success and Chevalier’s experience coaching the sons of former NBA players was a draw for Wade and James as they were looking at schools for their sons to attend.
“Two years ago when [Pippen and Martin] came in, there was a big question if Sierra Canyon could handle them, understand them and teach their kids,” Chevalier said. “Because I think we did such a great job making them better men and basketball players, I think that’s why other people will tend to bring their kids here because it is high-level basketball and high-level academics.”
As good as the team is projected to be, the spotlight this season will be on Zaire, a 6-foot-2 senior point guard, and Bronny, a 6-foot-2 freshman shooting guard, especially if their fathers become courtside staples. While Zaire addressed reporters at the school’s media day on Thursday, Bronny, who just turned 15, did not do interviews and might not at all this season, according to the school’s sports information director.
“He’s a freshman and right now he’s just getting acclimated to the program,” Chevalier said. “His family wants this to be a natural progression for him. There are other guys who are probably more talented than him right now, there are higher level players than him on the team right now and he’ll learn from them. When it’s his time, he’ll be ready to get in front of the cameras and microphones and talk to the media.”
This is the first time Bronny and the 17-year-old Zaire will be teammates and Zaire is taking it upon himself to mentor Bronny and take on the interview requests both players have gotten so far. While the tandem took photos together, Zaire handled all the interviews.
“Bronny doesn’t really like cameras all up in his face so I try to do what I can, being a little older than him,” Zaire said. “We live the same lifestyle essentially so I just try to help him out with what I’ve been through the past four years ahead of what he’s about to go through, which is going to be way worse probably.”
Sierra Canyon’s season began with a 12-day trip to China in August and its schedule will take it to eight states. It will be a program covered nationally, and with Bronny and Zaire combining for almost five million followers on Instagram, Chevalier has encouraged them to showcase the team and their skills online.
“We had a four-week media training where an instructor came in and talked to them about social media and how to interview and how to carry themselves,” Chevalier said. “The instructor showed them how a good social media brand looks and how a bad one looks so hopefully they will learn from that and take advantage of this time they live in and use their social media for good and for improving their brand.”
LeBron James mentioned Sierra Canyon during Lakers media day and Dwyane Wade has talked about the school during interviews and said he will be at as many games as possible this season.
“It’s crazy,” Wade said. “It’s something we never even talked about. Even when we were together in Miami, they didn’t go to the same school. At this time in both of their high school lives, to be able to put them together to hopefully do something special this year at Sierra Canyon is great. They also have two other great young players in Ziaire Williams and Brandon Boston. We’re really excited about this season. It’s going to be fun.”
Chevalier got the idea to hold a media day for his team after visiting Kansas before last season and talking to Bill Self about his program.
“They had media day when I was there and I thought that would be great for our guys to experience a media day to prepare them for college, the NBA or wherever they go,” Chevalier said. “We are trying to create as many opportunities for them to prepare them for the next level.”
As Bronny and Zaire moved from one photo shoot area to the next during media day, a photographer showed them a photo of their fathers from a media day when they were teammates with the Miami Heat. They smiled and recreated it before taking a look at it on the camera’s screen and nodding.
“This was never the plan but I’m looking forward to it,” Zaire said. “We just kind of went with the flow and it happened. I’m excited to play with him but I’m excited to play with everyone on the team. Obviously the stories of me and Bronny and our fathers is going to get talked about but I just want to soak in this experience with this group and have fun this year.”
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