By Ben York / @bjyork
Here’s what you probably know about Candice Dupree:
• She has the smoothest shot in the WNBA.
• Her ability to rebound the basketball is invaluable.
• She is one of the most consistent and efficient players in the league.
• She maintains a calm persona on and off the court.
Unlike other high-profile superstars, we really don’t know much about Candice Dupree; but she likes it that way. She doesn’t have the magnetic personality of a Diana Taurasi or the flashiness of a Cappie Pondexter. What she does have is an innate ability to play at a superstar level while, somehow, flying under the radar for the majority of her career.
Just like Tim Duncan.
Soft-spoken, reserved, collected; that’s a fair description of the known Dupree. But beyond that wall lies a genuine, humble, and gracious woman willing to sacrifice for the betterment of the team. Typically, her name doesn’t carry the weight in the mainstream media with the Taurasi’s, the Bird’s, or the Hammon’s but that isn’t what matters most to Dupree.
It’s all about winning, and winning now.
“I just want to win,” Dupree said. “I’m not always looking to be the star on the team.” Yet, inevitably, she does become a star; not consciously, but by letting her game speak for itself. A staple of consistency in the WNBA over her four years in the league, Dupree holds career averages of 15.6 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1 bpg, while shooting 45 percent from the floor. To date, Dupree has only missed one game in her already illustrious career.
But Dupree’s value goes beyond mundane statistics. Like Duncan in the NBA, Dupree’s quiet and stoic demeanor often allow her to become overshadowed in favor of some of the more outspoken superstars. “I’m more composed,” Dupree said about her personality. “I am more the quiet type. I’m really looking forward to working with Diana [Taurasi] on and off the court. It’s going to be fun. But even I let loose every once in a while.”
Perhaps one of Dupree’s most overlooked aspects is her ability to fit in and mesh with any style of play. With the fast-paced tempo Phoenix plays at, this quality has never been more significant or poignant for Dupree. And don’t think gelling with such a dynamic team like the Phoenix Mercury is an easy task; it takes commitment, sacrifice, and the ability to check your ego at the door. Dupree has an exceptionally high basketball IQ and understands the flow of the game better than most. Hence, her addition to the Mercury should be seamless; like Pau Gasol to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Upon receiving news of the trade, many Mercury fans were seemingly worried the team’s chemistry would go awry with Cappie Pondexter now a member of the New York Liberty. Who can blame them? With two championships in the last three years, I’d be more concerned if they didn’t worry about Pondexter’s absence. Though, any anxiety Mercury fans have should be immediately put to rest. “Our offense is set up for a dominant scorer down low,” Mercury head coach Corey Gaines said. “We played Penny [Taylor] there but that really isn’t her position. Candice [Dupree] gives us something we never had. Our offense needs to evolve and before we were playing more outside-in, now we have the ability to play inside-out. Candice will create a lot of double-teams which will leave our shooters open on the perimeter.”
If you had to guess which Mercury player was the first to congratulate Dupree on coming to Phoenix, who would it be? Diana Taurasi? Tangela Smith? Penny Taylor? “It was DeWanna Bonner,” Dupree said. “She was the first one to send me a message on Facebook. I don’t do that Twitter stuff [laughs].” In many ways, second-year player DeWanna Bonner could benefit the most with Dupree as a member of the Mercury. The amount of poise Dupree plays with, and her ability to shoot the ball so effectively, could be key towards Bonner’s growth as a player. “I think there is potential for that, sure,” Dupree said of mentoring Bonner. “I think that will be determined once we get into training camp and see how everything goes.”
Dupree and Duncan share an ability few post players do well – pass the ball. Dupree’s passing ability was an enormously attractive quality when the Mercury began looking to replace Pondexter. Dupree averaged about 2 apg during her time in Chicago, and that was with a team who sorely missed outside shooters. Now, with the Mercury, Dupree has 5-7 legitimate threats along the perimeter to pass to when the inevitable double-team comes from opposing teams. “I’ve never had that,” Dupree said when asked about being on a team with so many shooters. “I’ve maybe had 1-2 in college but I’ve never played with the amount of shooters the Mercury has. It makes the game so much easier and takes a lot of pressure off me down low. I’m just excited to get into training camp.”
If there was one area the Mercuy wanted to improve on in the off-season, it would be difficult to argue against rebounding. Though, in order to rebound consistently, you need size; Dupree provides that for Phoenix. Similar to Duncan, Dupree isn’t the biggest player on the court but she unquestionably is one of the smartest. With Nicole Ohlde injured most of the 2009 season, the Mercury were left with a gang-rebounding mentality that became increasingly difficult against teams with size and length. Dupree not only gives the Mercury size in the paint but also boosts the team’s overall basketball IQ and reserve. “It’s an asset for us to have Candice down low,” Corey Gaines said. “It will only make us better.”
For Dupree, basketball has always been about taking care of business. Like Tim Duncan, you won’t see her out in the club in the early morning, on a myriad of commercials, or even many endorsement deals — Dupree keeps to herself. It is certainly not from a selfish or egotistical standpoint; that’s just the personality she and Duncan share. In doing so, they differentiate themselves from a personal standpoint and get overlooked on the basketball court. “Working hard isn’t really anything I think about, it just happens,” Dupree said. “It has been that way since I was young. I can get intense at times but that’s only when I feel an impact needs to be made.”
Like Duncan, Dupree goes about her business on the basketball court in a composed demeanor notching double-doubles on a nightly basis. To date, they still don’t get the credit they truly deserve.
It is unfortunate, because Candice Dupree is one of the most talented basketball players the WNBA has ever seen.