Candice Dupree: A Leader Beyond the Numbers
“From the outside looking in, Candice seems really quiet and soft spoken, but she’s actually a fireball,” said four-year WNBA veteran and first-year Sky player Shyra Ely. “She’s pretty much been our cornerstone all year. She’s done a great job stepping up and being our go-to player. She’s been vocal too. It’s not something that’s all the time, but when something needs to be said Candice will say it.”
Stepping up as a vocal leader within the team is something Dupree and Sky General Manager and Head Coach Steven Key talked about headed into this season.
Dupree’s leadership growth has shown up in the box scores, in the locker room and in the standings as the season comes down to crunch time. With the playoffs approaching quickly, Dupree’s numbers have all risen over the past four weeks to help the Sky have a toe-hold on the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and the rest of the Sky players know who to go to if they need anything.
“When I first got here she talked to me and made me feel comfortable,” said Tamera Young, a second-year WNBA player whom the Sky acquired via a mid-season trade with the Atlanta Dream. “On the court Candice talks and tells us what we need to know. She doesn’t get in your face and yell at you, she helps you build your confidence.”
Dupree and the rest of the Sky have good reason to be confident. They’re in a position to make the playoffs for the first time in the franchise’s four-year history.
Keeping the Sky focused is another area in which Dupree has stepped up. The main focus for Dupree and the Sky has been on achieving the goal they set out to in training camp – making the playoffs. “Everybody needs to be on the same page, so I try to make sure everybody is,” said Dupree.
Getting caught up in the playoff race has helped motivate Dupree to take her game, her focus and her leadership to another level. “Now we’re fighting for a playoff spot. I try to make sure I do my part every game. It’s exciting to be in this position and every one of us has a responsibility to do what we can to make sure that the team achieves the goal that we set out to achieve at the beginning of the season.”
“It’d be great of the Sky to make the playoffs. For us to be able to do something like that in four years would be great. The fact that we’re so close is what’s driving me. Mentally I tell myself I have to play well every single game and do my part to help this team make it.”
To say Candice is competitive would be an understatement. She does what her team needs to win. On nights where her shots aren’t falling, she crashes the boards and plays furious defense. When her shots do fall, it doesn’t matter how many she makes as long as the Sky comes out ahead.
Dupree along with a teammate or two spend extra time before and after practice taking extra shots on a regular basis. She’s developed the work ethic and character the Sky has embodied thus far to get into the playoffs.
And when the Sky doesn’t come out ahead, nobody takes it harder than Dupree. “I hate losing,” Candice said emphatically. “I could have a 30 point game but if we still lose I’m angry afterwards. My mom’s the person I’ll call to vent. I’m usually in a bad mood after a loss and everybody around me knows it.”
With two games left to determine if the Sky get in for the first time or not, let’s hope Momma Dupree doesn’t get any frustrated calls from Candice for a while. The only talking Dupree should have to do is with her teammates, to help make sure they’re all thinking the same thing - PLAYOFFS.