Quick, who’s the most valuable player to their team in the area — any WPIAL or City League team, boys or girls?

There are several names you could drop without getting much argument — South Fayette’s Maddie Webber, North Hills’ Royce Parham and Aquinas Academy’s Vinnie Cugini, to name a few — but one of the first names to come to mind has to be Clairton sophomore Iyanna Wade.

She already made a name for herself with a phenomenal freshman season, finishing fourth in the WPIAL and leading all first-year players with an average of 23.7 points per game while helping the Bears finish 15-4 overall. As a sophomore, Wade is turning it up a couple notches, blowing past her previous pace the way she blows by defenders despite facing constant pressure and double teams.

First, in a season-opening 52-30 win against Westinghouse, Wade scored a whopping 49 of Clairton’s 52 points to put the rest of the league on notice. She then scored 41 points in a 54-47 loss at Allderdice before dropping 36 in a 50-9 win vs. Ellis School — good for an average of 42 ppg through three games. Nearly doubling her output from last season while doing everything possible on the court to help her team win, Wade is rapidly becoming one of the WPIAL’s brightest stars.

“I knew she would have to carry the load even moreso than she did last year,” said Bears coach Carlton Wade, Iyanna’s father. “I thought she did a very good job as a freshman, coming in and averaging 24 ppg. She’s ready for it. AAU got her ready for it.”

The elder Wade is a realist, so he’s not going out on a limb and projecting his team to be a WPIAL title contender in its first year after moving up from Class 1A to 2A. Heck, he’s not even ready to guarantee a playoff berth after graduating four of five starters from last year’s team.

But then again, he does have his daughter on his side, and he knows as well as anybody never to doubt her abilities or tell her there’s something she can’t do.

“She hates to lose,” Carlton Wade said. “Her and [her older brother] Lamont are so much the same. They really hate to lose. But she knows [it will be hard], and we spoke on it. She knows the challenges ahead.”

Clairton’s Iyanna Wade scored 36 points to help the Bears to a 50-9 victory against Ellis School during a game in Clairton Monday. (Steve Mellon/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Lamont Wade is one of the best football players in Clairton’s storied history, and despite him being eight years older than Iyanna, she always wanted to train and work out with him and never backed down from the challenge of playing him one-on-one. It helped sharpen her skills and mold her into the athlete and competitor she is now — and the gap between the two isn’t what it used to be, either.

In fact, Wade recently beat her big brother in a game of one-on-one for the first time, securing family bragging rights until further notice.

“He was done after that,” Wade said, laughing. “He used to always beat me.”

Although she only stands 5 feet 4, Wade has never let her size stop her from being the hardest worker and, more often than not, the best player on the floor. That goes for her high school games, her family one-on-ones in the driveway, or even on the AAU circuit while traveling around the country playing for the Western Pa. Bruins.

With quick-twitch moves and uncanny handles to go with her elite speed and quickness, Wade is an ideal point guard for just about any offense. Add to that her improved jump shot and a near-unstoppable floater in the lane, and you have a truly special talent capable of scoring or facilitating at an elite level.

“It’s not the fact that she’s shooting all the time. She’s passing the ball. She’s hitting the open player,” Carlton Wade said. “I think her quickness puts her above a lot of other guards in the WPIAL.”

Of course, while Wade is off to a fast start, she knows things will get a lot more challenging as the competition level goes up during section play. With teams like Serra Catholic, Greensburg Central Catholic and Winchester Thurston lurking in Class 2A Section 3, the Bears will have their work cut out for them just to make it back to the playoffs.

No matter what happens, though, Wade is still just a sophomore with plenty of room to grow. And even if Clairton doesn’t make a deep run this season, she and the Bears will certainly be a must-see attraction for years to come.

“I enjoy it,” Wade said of the massive weight on her shoulders. “I know once I get to the highest levels, it will be like this, and it will help me. So when I do get into situations where the pressure is all on me, I’ll be used to it.”

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at srotstein@unionprogress.com.

Steve Rotstein

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at srotstein@unionprogress.com.