Don't Sleep on Dupree

By Ben York, PhoenixMercury.com
Posted: May 17, 2013

Candice Dupree is like my iPhone.

Stay with me here.

My iPhone is fast, reliable and makes everything infinitely easier on me.

Recently, I dropped my iPhone on concrete just outside of US Airways Center. After a few tears and angry shouts to the sky, not surprisingly, my phone ended up being out of commission for several days.

Like everything in life, I firmly believe there is always a silver lining. After going without my phone for a while, that’s when I ultimately realized I was taking it for granted. Rather than view the phone as an unsung necessity, I began to realize how much of a luxury it is.

I’d be willing to assert that many of us are equally as guilty of taking Candice Dupree for granted.

She has the best footwork in the paint of any basketball player I’ve ever seen, and makes everything look so easy on the basketball floor that her greatness can unfortunately be overlooked. That’s a shame since Dupree is one of the most talented and driven players in league history.

This season, Dupree returns to the Phoenix Mercury healthy and in the best shape of her career. Perhaps more importantly, her distinctive grasp of the Mercury’s up-tempo offense could be more vital this year than ever.

“Candice [Dupree] opens up a lot of things for us offensively,” Diana Taurasi said. “She’s so smart with where to go both with and without the ball. She’s one of those players where if you pass it to her in the paint, you just know it’s going to go in. She’ll be huge for us this year, like always.”

Author Cynthia Ozick once said, “When something does not insist on being noticed, when we aren’t grabbed by the collar or struck on the skull by a presence or an event, we take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.”

That’s Candice Dupree in a nutshell.

“Each year I try to set personal goals as a player,” Dupree said, when asked about her personal drive to always improve. “In doing that, it gives me something to focus on each season and get better as a player. The game of basketball keeps evolving. It's a personal challenge of mine to not only get better individually but to be able to keep up with these youngins. Alright, [laughs] I'm not even really that old. But as fast as these seasons go by I feel like I've been playing forever.”

Dupree has never gravitated towards the spotlight or deliberately went out of her way to seek notoriety. But that’s what makes her all the more remarkable. If she wanted to, or if the team needed her to, she could average over 20 points per game solely based on how immeasurably skilled she is at the game of basketball.

It’s also something Head Coach and General Manager Corey Gaines fully understands.

“[Candice] Dupree could have a really big year,” Gaines said. “There are only so many people you can focus on defensively and she’s so good from multiple areas on the floor. Candice [Dupree] might shoot a higher percentage than ever before, and that’s really saying something.”

It’s no secret why Candice Dupree is considered one of the best players in the game; it’s a direct correlation with how hard she works. As Calvin Coolidge once said, “All growth depends upon activity. There is no development physically or intellectually without effort, and effort means work.”

This is evidenced by Dupree’s constant growth and evolution as a player since beginning her career with the Chicago Sky.

“My overall game has evolved since coming to Phoenix,” said Dupree. “When I first got here, we were definitely a run-and-gun type of team. I never knew I could get up and down the court so quickly. The pace of my game definitely changed. I played more on the block my first season here than I did when I was in Chicago. I had to tighten up my post game. This season I'll be playing with [Brittney] Griner and I'll be outside the paint a lot more – which is fine because I've been working on my range this past offseason.”

Sure, Dupree is naturally “smooth” as many have dubbed her, but one cannot be given that descriptor without continually proving right those who bestowed it upon her.

“My expectations for myself this season are pretty high,” Dupree added. “Being that last season I spent most of the summer being injured, I feel like I need to start off this season with a bang. My body feels better than ever and I'm in really good shape. I'm pretty anxious for the regular season to get underway.”

One thing’s for certain this season: ‘Pree is on a mission.