A 2006 ‘Down to Earth’ feature on Candice Dupree, forward for the WNBA’s Chicago Sky (now with the Pheonix Mercury) (by hoopla411)
By Stefan Swiat, PhoenixMercury.com
Posted: March 31, 2009
On Wednesday, the Phoenix Mercury acquired Dupree in a three-way trade that sent Cappie Pondexter and Kelly Mazzante to the New York Liberty, Shameka Christon and Cathrine Kraayeveld to the Chicago Sky and Dupree to the Mercury.
“What Candice gives us is an insider scorer,” Mercury Head Coach Corey Gaines said. “Since I’ve been here, we haven’t had a dominant inside scorer that demands a double-team. That’s funny because our offense is set up for a dominant scorer down low.”
During the 2009 WNBA season, Dupree led the Sky and ranked 11th in the WNBA in scoring at 15.7 points a night. In addition, she was second in the league in total rebounds, while tying her personal career high in rebounding (7.9 boards) along the way.
“I’m excited about the different style of basketball that they play here and I’m looking to get up and down the floor more than I ever have in the past,” Dupree said. “People keep telling me to bring my track shoes to training camp.”
With four years under her belt in the WNBA, Dupree is entering her prime, registering career highs in three-point field goal percentage (.387) and free throw percentage (.785) last season. The 6-2 forward has worked hard to develop her perimeter game, becoming a reliable three-point shooter after only hitting one three-pointer in her career before last season.
Long and lean, she’s also built for the run-and-gun Phoenix offense.
“She’s definitely a fast player,” Gaines said. “She’s not a plodder like most people would think of a 4. She’s a 4/3 that can extend out.”
The inside-out combination of Dupree and league-MVP Diana Taurasi appears to quite a dangerous combo. Dupree’s presence also spreads the floor for Penny Taylor and Dupree’s new frontcourt sidekick, Tangela Smith.
“I think I’ll be a great compliment to (Tangela Smith) to put me on the inside and let her shoot from the outside,” Dupree said. “It’ll be nice to have people around you to take some of that pressure off when it comes to scoring.”
After tallying the third-most double-doubles in the league last season, the 25-year-old forward was named a starter for the Eastern Conference in the WNBA’s 2009 All-Star Game. It was the third All-Star appearance of her career.
“We had pick-your-poison last year with Diana, Cappie and Penny,” Gaines said. “We still have pick-your-poison with three players. The other coaches are the ones that will have to figure out which poison he wants.”
Dupree will now be playing with Smith.
The former Temple Owl spent this past winter playing professionally overseas for Good Angels Kosice in Slovakia. She ranked first in all of EuroLeague competition in rebounding at 11.0 a game and was third in scoring at 18.9 points a night.
Those numbers were good enough to put her in the EuroLeague All-Star Game, where she recorded 11 points and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds in 23 minutes as a starter alongside Taurasi. It also gave the two stars a preview of what havoc they’ll wreak on the WNBA this season.
“Diana has a lot of personality and she likes to play that up-tempo basketball,” Dupree noted. “She’s kind of different from me, I’m quieter. Basically, the opposite of her.”
Gaines is also excited about the versatility Dupree could provide on the defensive end.
“We’re so long,” Gaines said. “We can put DeWanna (Bonner) at the 3 and we’ll be really long. Our rover defense is going to be something special.”
Inheriting Dupree was a relief for Gaines and the Mercury, who didn’t want to trade the three-time All-Star and Finals MVP Pondexter in the first place. When Pondexter made it known that she wanted out of Phoenix and to play in New York, Gaines went as far as flying to Europe to try to convince her to come back.
“Cappie has helped us win two championships and it’s unfortunate that she wanted to leave,” Gaines said. “I was planning on putting new stuff in (the offense for her) up until this week. There is no other Cappie, but that’s life and you move on.”
On the New York Liberty’s website, Pondexter cited her interest in the Big Apple and starting “a new career” as the reasons she wanted to leave Phoenix. The former gold medalist believed New York was the place for her to grow and develop.
“You have to ask her (why she didn’t come back),” Gaines said. “One of the things that she said is that she wanted to expand her world, and Cappie is into fashion and into other stuff off the court. She felt that New York is the place for her to expand her world.”
But now that the Pondexter chapter of the Mercury’s history has come to an end, a new one begins for Dupree and the Merc. Taurasi slides to the shooting guard spot, Taylor heads back to her natural position on the wing and Smith has someone to work off of in the post.
Although the Valley will miss Pondexter, the acquisition of Dupree may prove to be better for the franchise in the long run.
“We used to work outside-in, but now we’re working inside-out,” Gaines noted. “And if I’m not mistaken, the inside shot is a better percentage. We led the league in scoring last year, so this year the sky is the limit.”