The 2016 season marks the 20th anniversary of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), and as a long-time favorite sport of the LGBT community, in particular, there’s a lot of anticipation about this season and how some of the recent WNBA championship teams will fare.
Although off to a slow start for the 2016 season, the Phoenix Mercury still has the talent to win the WNBA championship this year, just like they did in 2014. The starting five from the 2014 team are still there and all of them are champions – Diana Taurasi, Penny Taylor, DeWanna Bonner, Brittney Griner and Candice Dupree. But of the five, Dupree (or “Pre” as her teammates call her) is the quiet one, someone I wanted to know better.
Now in her tenth season, the 6-foot-2 power forward is still going strong. Selected sixth overall in the first round of the 2006 WNBA draft by the Chicago Sky, Dupree moved to the Mercury in 2010, bringing along her ability to execute plays with quiet consistency. From her college days at Temple University to her WNBA career, she has won almost every honor and award that can be given. And from rebounding, to double-doubles, to field goals and free throws, she’s also garnered a number of franchise records. And that doesn’t even account for the numerous awards and honors she’s earned for her overseas play.
But Dupree isn’t what I consider to be a so-called “typical” professional athlete. I’ve met lots of pro athletes over the years and it can be hard to find ones who didn’t spend most, if not all their young years dreaming of a professional career. It can be almost as hard to find ones who don’t have a lot of ego involved in being an elite professional athlete and the perks it provides. So when I had a recent opportunity to talk with Dupree, I asked her some questions that she said she doesn’t often get asked.
Dupree said she never dreamed of a pro career; really never thought about it until her junior year in college even though her talent had earned her a full basketball scholarship to Temple. “I played basketball in high school and college because I was good at it and it was something to do.”
Clearly, Dupree doesn’t fit the expected mold. In a telling 2014 quote she gave Philip Hersh of the Chicago Tribune, she said “I don’t want to be that player who gets 20 points one game and four or five the next. I was always taught fundamental basketball – nothing flashy, be consistent, take shots I know I can make, get the job done.”
When I asked her about the Mercury’s chances of winning the WNBA championship this season, she said they didn’t start the season well but she thinks that once they get their rhythm back, they’ll surprise people and wind up in the finals. Mercury head coach Sandy Brondello is in agreement, saying “It’s more about just playing the game and taking great shots every possession. It’s just them playing together, playing basketball, sharing the ball, taking great shots.”
Unlike her teammates Taurasi and Taylor who only played overseas in 2015, skipping the WNBA season to rest their bodies, Dupree played both home and abroad last year. So there’s been a whole season where only three of the five starters were able to reinforce their playing rhythm. Brondello acknowledges the massive talent in the team’s starting Fab Five and the rest of the team, noting that “Champion players don’t make a championship team. If you’re not on the same page, you’re not going to win.” But she also says, “I don’t think we’re on the same page quite yet, but I know we’re capable of getting there.”
I asked Dupree how she’s holding up. Since she’s been playing for 10 years in the WNBA as well as in the off-season for teams in Russia, Slovakia and Poland, I wondered if she’s now thinking about retiring. Saying that she’s always said she “won’t play till the wheels fall off,” she admitted that she’s thought about it. But Dupree isn’t ready to take any action yet. Maybe within the next two years she’ll consider playing only stateside or only abroad to reduce the year-round wear and tear on her body and go from there.
Asking her how she takes care of herself to maintain such a grueling year-round schedule, Dupree says she makes sure she’s in the weight room every day to stay strong. She’s also much more conscious about her diet these days, noting that she’s moved away from the junk food she used to enjoy, like chips, soda and French fries. We also talked about how play has changed over the last 10 years and she immediately said it’s the increased athleticism of the women coming in; they’re taller and stronger. Plus the pace of the game has increased – you’ve got to be able to keep up with them.
And what will she do when she finally decides to retire? Although it hasn’t been decided yet, it will likely be something entrepreneurial. Dupree already owns an Apricot Lane Boutique franchise, a women’s clothing and accessory store in her hometown of Tampa with her twin sister, Crystal. And because of an interest in real estate, she and her mother bought several properties and did the physical work to flip them (it wasn’t as much fun as she thought it would be) in addition to owning a rental property. She’s also considered opening her own workout facility.
Yes, Candice Dupree is one of those intriguing quiet athletes who is full of surprises. Even though she’s quiet, she has a good sense of humor and loves to make people laugh in spite of a self-acknowledged critical streak (she says it means she’s just looking out for your best interest). Whatever she decides to do when retirement day comes, however, you can be sure she’ll be just as successful in her new venture as she has been and continues to be as a professional athlete.
By Brian Patrick
Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images
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