When Candice Dupree next suits up for a competitive basketball game, she will be wearing a different uniform than her Temple threads. She’ll have a new coach, new teammates, and a new city to call home.
But her situation isn’t so new at all.
Dupree, Temple’s best women’s basketball player ever, was selected sixth overall by the expansion Chicago Sky in last Wednesday’s WNBA Draft. After helping turn Temple from an average program into one of the nation’s best, Dupree again will have the opportunity to take her team from the bottom of the league to the top.
“I think it will be good for me to go to Chicago,” Dupree said. “It’s the same thing [as before].”
Four years ago Dupree entered a Temple program undergoing the early stages of a turnaround, under coach Dawn Staley. The Owls had only made two appearances in the NCAA Tournament.
Now, Dupree exits having guided the Owls to three straight Atlantic Ten Conference Championships, three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances and the program’s first wire-to-wire season in the national rankings.
Dupree became the first Owl drafted by a WNBA franchise.
“It’s more excitement than a sense of pride,” Dupree said of her accomplishments at Temple. “…I’m happy for my coaches. I think they wanted to see this happen. They may never get to see it again.”
Playing for the expansion Sky gives Dupree the opportunity to repeat the process. But playing at a higher level will bring new challenges. There is less practice time, longer and more frequent plane flights, and the potentiality of back-to-back games.
Former Temple assistant Ervin Monier recruited Dupree to commit to Temple. The associate women’s basketball coach at Rhode Island, who still speaks regularly with Dupree, said the forward/center’s biggest challenge will be her mental preparation.
“In order for her to succeed at this level, she’s going to have to make the decision to compete at that highest level day in and day out,” Monier said.
Temple assistant coach Darius Taylor said Dupree’s ability to learn quickly will ease her transition.
“She has natural ability,” Taylor said. “She can pick up things quickly. You can show her once or twice and she has it. So, she’s a quick learner.”
Over the past two seasons, Taylor has worked one-on-one with Dupree in practice sessions to help her in backing down larger, more physical opponents. As Dupree progressed, teams began double- and triple-covering her. The coverage Dupree faced got so intense that Taylor had trouble imitating it. But Dupree said she is grateful for Taylor’s assistance.
“It’s not everyday you get to play against a guy twice your size,” Dupree said.
Though Dupree has said she never expected to play professionally, Monier recognized WNBA potential the moment he first saw Dupree play.
“There was no doubt in my mind that [the WNBA] was her potential because her skill and her demeanor proved it,” said Monier, who spotted Dupree while recruiting another player. Dupree immediately sprung to the top of Temple’s recruiting focus, which included many of the top-ranked post prospects in the nation.
“She was highly skilled,” Monier said. “There was a calm about her when she played basketball. She could shoot fairly well around the basket.”
While Monier and Taylor were important coaching figures in Dupree’s development, the 6-2 senior had four years to learn from Staley, one of the WNBA’s top players.
Staley, who was in Australia coaching USA Basketball, was unavailable for comment. Dupree said she learned the most from Staley’s actions, particularly from the intensity the sixth-year coach÷ brings to the game.
“She’s not a person of many words,” Dupree said of Staley’s guidance. “[It’s] probably more her actions than anything she says.”
The two will become the first former collegiate player-coach duo to square off when the Sky visit Staley’s Houston Comets on June 2. Dupree downplayed competing against her former coach.
“There won’t be any animosity or anything like that,” the Third-Team All-American said. “It will just be fun.”
John Kopp can be reached at email@example.com.