Q&A: Candice Dupree on motherhood, playoff hopes, and leading by example

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - AUGUST 6: Candice Dupree /

WASHINGTON, D.C. — It’s been a big year for Candice Dupree. The 32-year-old veteran married to her former Phoenix Mercury teammate DeWanna Bonner last November. In February, Dupree was traded to the Indiana Fever in a three-team deal. Last month she made her sixth All-Star appearance, and just days later, Bonner gave birth to twins.

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Now, the new mother is trying to lead the Fever to its 13th straight playoff appearance. But it’s going to be an uphill battle. The Fever are 9-19 on the season, and have only won two games in all of July and August combined. However, the team still has an outside shot to make the playoffs, since it is only two games behind the eighth-place Seattle Storm, with six games left to play

Before her 26-point performance in a loss to the Washington Mystics on Saturday night, Dupree spoke with The Summitt about the playoff push, her leadership style, motherhood, Bonner’s comeback ambitions, and playing alongside her sister-in-law, Fever rookie Erica McCall.

It’s been a tough couple of months for the Fever, but last week you upset the best team in the league, the Minnesota Lynx. How do you harness that momentum going forward?

We have to take the energy, the effort, the aggressiveness that we had in that game and use it in every other game we have the rest of season. We played a lot better defensively than we’ve done the rest of the season, and I think as long as we can do that against every opponent, there’s no reason why we can’t win.

Despite a frustrating month, you’re still right in the mix for a playoff spot. How much does that motivate you?

For me personally, it’s a huge motivation. The records are so close right there at the bottom, we just have to take it one game at a time, and focus on what it is we’re trying to do, but the playoffs is the main goal. But it’s gotta be the goal of the entire team. We can’t have five that want it, five that are just whatever, so we gotta just go out there and just focus.

The Fever have been in the playoff for 12 straight years, which I believe is the longest active streak in pro sports. Is that record on your mind?

We’re aware. Our coach has told us, our GM has told us. So hopefully we can keep that streak alive.

WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 12: Candice Dupree
WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 12: Candice Dupree /

You’re new to the Fever, but you’re also the veteran leader of this team, which is relatively young and inexperienced. Has that been a tricky situation to navigate?

It’s actually been a pretty easy transition for me. In the past I’ve been more a lead-by-example type of person, but I’ve had to be more vocal for this team, which isn’t an issue for me. If anything it helps me grow as an individual. But I think this group being as young as they are, they’re looking for leadership, so it’s kind of I’ve stepped in and filled that position perfectly, especially with Tamika Catchings retiring. So it hasn’t been that big of an adjustment.

So you feel it comes naturally to you?

For sure. I think so. A lot of times I can lead without saying anything. Like I said, lead by example. Putting the extra work in after practice, all the little stuff that helps you be a better player, they see that and it makes them want to work harder.

Did you learn anything from Diana Taurasi’s leadership style in Phoenix?

Oh, I think we’re completely different leadership styles. We’re probably at two different ends of the spectrum with that. (Laughs)

Off the court, congratulations are certainly in order. How is motherhood?

It’s been great! We’re actually really enjoying it, having fun with it. The babies are good, they’re healthy, so that’s all we can ask for.

How is DeWanna doing?

She’s good. She’s recovering very well, she was a little sore initially, but slowly working herself out of it. I’m sure she’s ready to get back to the grind and start working out again. She told me the other day she was going to come to the gym and shoot five shots and leave. I was like, alright, get your five shots up and then leave.

Are they going to be able to come to any games this season?

I’m not sure. They came a little early. We’re just trying to be cautious. Not overly cautious, but cautious.  We may take them to practice so my teammates can see them, and if anything, I was thinking maybe the last home game of the season.

Speaking of family, how has it been playing alongside your sister-in-law (Erica McCall)? 

I treat her like any other rookie. I gotta hold her accountable. But she’s good. She works really hard, at times I kind-of feel bad because she is the only rookie on the team, and I know it’s hard, but she’s soaking it all in. I try to let her do her own thing, I don’t ever want her to feel like she has to hang out just because we’re sister-in-laws or anything like that. Just let her grow as an individual and as a basketball player.

One last question: Which of your Fever teammates has surprised you the most this season?

Probably Erica Wheeler, for sure, on and off the court. She’s had games where she’s just gone off on people, but I guess i never realized that she has such an explosive personality, to say the least. She’s extremely funny, entertaining, has a really big personality and really big heart. She works really hard and she tries her best to learn any way she can and improve on her game, and I just love that about her.