At 5 feet 4, Iyanna Wade is typically the shortest player on the court, yet game after game she somehow finds a way to score more points than everyone else.

“I can do anything through God that strengthens me,” she said. “I’ve got the heart. That’s all that matters.”

Wade is a junior guard at Clairton High School who is well on her way to winning a second consecutive WPIAL scoring title. Wade has poured in 38.6 points a game this season after averaging 33.3 a season ago.

Wade’s gift for putting the ball in the basket has led teams to throw the kitchen sink at her defensively. Double and triple teams, box-and-ones, diamond-and-ones … you name it, Wade has seen it. And she’s found a way to beat it, too.

“It’s in her blood. It’s in the Wade DNA,” said her father, Clairton coach Carlton Wade. “She’s just as competitive as any one of our family members. She wants it real bad.”

The “it” that dad references is winning a WPIAL girls basketball championship, something that he and his daughter both know would likely have a better chance of happening if Iyanna transferred to another school in order to play on a team with more talent around her. Clairton registered only four playoff wins over the previous 15 seasons, hasn’t reached a WPIAL final since 2005, and captured its only titles when Kam Gissendanner led the Bears to back-to-back championships in 2001 and 2002. The Bears lost their playoff opener each of the past two seasons.

“We had a coach come here, a high school coach. We tinkered with [leaving]. Her ninth grade year, we thought about it. Because she wants to play down Petersen [Events Center]. And it would be hard here,” said Carlton, a star player himself at Clairton who led the WPIAL in scoring with 29.1 points a game during the 1984-85 season.

But Iyanna didn’t want to leave Clairton, the school at which several other family members have starred. Her family includes brother Lamont, who led the Bears to three consecutive WPIAL football titles before going on to play at Penn State.

 “She took pride in her city and wanted to stay,” Carlton said.

Added Iyanna, “Going down to the Pete and winning. That’s my goal. And getting this team better and improving from the last couple of years.”

So, Wade stayed … and Clairton continues to get better. Clairton’s latest win — a 63-27 triumph against Frazier on Saturday — was its 10th of the season, topping its win total from all of last season when the Bears went 9-10. This season, they are 10-2 overall and 3-2 in Class 2A Section 3.

Clairton’s Iyanna Wade has scored at least 30 points in every game this season and has a season high of 50. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Of course, Wade’s talents have played an immense role in Clairton’s success. Through her 38.6 points per game, Wade is responsible for 60% of her team’s scoring (the Bears average 64.1 points a game). In addition, she’s averaging 7 rebounds, 6 assists and 6 steals.

Wade has scored at least 30 points in each game this season and recently produced the biggest three-game stretch of scoring WPIAL girls basketball has seen since Cali Konek was lighting the nets on fire at Imani Christian eight years ago. Wade poured in 49, 50 and 48 points during a run that included wins against East Allegheny, Steel Valley and Springdale.

“I’ve been getting to my spots and shooting the ball,” she said. “Getting my teammates involved and them feeding me back.”

But as her dad says, it isn’t always pretty. When section-rival Serra Catholic paid a visit to Clairton last Monday and dealt the Bears their first loss of the season, 85-48, the sizable difference in talent between the two teams was obvious. Clairton found itself in a double-digit hole by the time the game was five minutes old, meaning Iyanna had to try to shoot her team back into it. She was 12 of 35 from the field with three 3-pointers and 10 of 17 from the free-throw line. She finished with 37 points.

“I take my hat off to her because it’s rough for her,” Carlton said. “It doesn’t look good all the time because she’s got to take bad shots to get shots. She exhausts a lot of energy trying to get points.”

Three nights later, Clairton traveled to play Greensburg Central Catholic for a section game and was again on the wrong end of a lopsided score, this time 78-60 in a game that Iyanna Wade went for 31 points.

“It’s what you see. And it’s evidence that we don’t have many ballplayers and she has been carrying us on her back all year,” Carlton said.

Led by Iyanna Wade, Clairton started the season 9-0 before suffering back-to-back section losses to Serra Catholic and Greensburg Central Catholic. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Adding to dad’s frustration is the public/private school debate. Of the six other teams in Clairton’s section, four of them — Serra Catholic, Greensburg Central Catholic, Winchester Thurston and Ellis School — are private schools. Like Clairton, Springdale and Steel Valley are public schools.

“I think next year we may have a little better shot when we drop to Single-A,” Carlton added. “It’s rough going from 9-0 to getting beat by 30 or 40 points. And then having to turn around in two days to go to Greensburg. To see Catholic schools who bring in kids yearly, it’s such an advantage for those teams that we have to compete against. We’ve got 6,000 people in Clairton, to where I have to pick from my girls who go to school here where they bring in good ninth graders every single year to be on that team. And I know that for a fact because I’m part of AAU, so I know what girls go to each school every year. That’s what pisses me off.

“But we can’t hang our head, we’ve got to keep it going. We didn’t play one of our better games [against Serra], and I promise you the next time we play them we’ll give them a better showing.”

Iyanna Wade surpassed 1,500 career points in Saturday’s win. She now has 1,535, which has come in just 50 games (an average of 30.7 a game). It took her only 36 games to reach 1,000.

Wade ultimately breaking the school career scoring record is still possible, but it should probably be considered a longshot being that Gissendanner tallied 2,703 (fifth best in WPIAL history) before graduating in 2003. Gissendanner, now the women’s coach at La Roche, led the WPIAL in scoring her junior and senior seasons and had a career high of 60 points. Wade’s career best is 50. Wade and Gissendanner have a good relationship. Wade actually worked for her at the Clairton Pool concession stand last summer.

Iyanna’s father calls every situation his daughter is in, on or off the court and good or bad, a learning lesson for the teen who, when not playing basketball or studying, can often be found playing Call of Duty, Fortnite or Madden.

Iyanna has had to learn to remain patient when it comes to her recruitment. Despite her outstanding play on her high school team and in AAU playing on a strong Western Pa. Bruins squad, Wade’s only college offer so far came from Division I Mount St. Mary’s last April. Being only 5-4 is the primary reason for that. If she were a few inches taller, her recruitment might be taking on a different look right now.

“She is small, but Iyanna can play Division I basketball as a point guard,” Carlton said. “For her AAU program, she’s a distributor. I have to have her score for us to be competitive. And she does a great job at it.”

Iyanna Wade most certainly does, and this big-time high school scorer knows that it could just be a matter of time before some more college offers start flowing in.

“I’m taking it day by day and trying to stay as patient as possible,” she said, “because I know my time is going to come eventually.”

Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

Brad Everett

Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at