Dupree has told her guards, “Slow down. You all are playing like your pants are on fire.”
Candice Dupree has been a model of consistency during her 14-year WNBA career – and that’s exactly what a young team like the Indiana Fever needs right now.
Dupree has averaged more than 10 points per game in each of her previous seasons. She’s scoring 11.7 points a game this year. She is eight points away from passing Lisa Leslie as the sixth-leading scorer in WNBA history. She’s one of the Fever’s top scorers and rebounders.
Fever coach Pokey Chatman says Dupree “is a coach on the floor.” For a team looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016, that is just as important as Dupree’s scoring and rebounding.
Indiana has stretches where they look like they can beat anyone, like when they outscored the Sparks 32-14 in the fourth quarter last night.
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In those same games, the Fever also have stretches where they remind you they’re still young. In last night’s game, the Sparks opened the second half with a 21-3 run. Indiana also committed 20 turnovers in a 90-84 loss to LA.
Before the Fever’s game against Las Vegas on July 10, Dupree sat down with High Post Hoops and talked about how she helps a team where only four players have more than three years of WNBA experience.
A few of Dupree’s comments have been slightly edited for clarity
HIGH POST HOOPS: What are some things you find yourself telling these young players often, whether it be encouragement, correction, or something else?
CANDICE DUPREE: I mean, it’s a little bit of everything. If anything, I’m just trying to simplify the game for them because I know, especially for rookies, everything goes a hundred miles an hour. You’re moving straight from college to training camp (then) training camp straight to the season. So you don’t have too much of a learning curve. So just trying to break things down, because the coaches are throwing a lot at players, and trying to simplify it as much as I can to make it make sense, but also to help them be productive.
HPH: As someone who’s won a title with Phoenix, what do you think this team needs to do to start winning consistently? You’ve had so many close games this year. (Indiana is 3-8 in games decided by single digits.)
DUPREE: We’ve actually had a lot of conversation about the defensive end of the floor. We aren’t necessarily a franchise that’s got a lot of scorers like some of these other organizations do where they’re trying to pack your team offensively. There are a select few teams that actually care about playing defense. They’re just trying to outscore everybody else. So we aren’t necessarily one of those teams that can outscore everybody. So I think we’ve got to be able to focus on the defensive end of the floor. It wears teams down, it helps us to get out in transition, which also wears teams down. And then when you do have to rely on offensive sets, your opponent is so gassed that you can get any shot you want.
HPH: Can you think of a specific time when you’ve given a teammate suggestions and then you’ve seen them go out and the court and do it?
DUPREE: It can be something simple. (Rookie Teaira McCowan) likes to play with her hands down a lot. And I know one thing that I was always told in college, because I actually played the five in college and being close to the basket all the time, you never know when guards are going to try and pass you the ball. So you’ve always got to keep your hands up. So that’s one thing early on that we’ve tried to focus on with her. I’m like, “(Teaira), it doesn’t matter where you are, keep your hands up. You don’t want to be surprised. You don’t want to get hit in the face. You play with a lot of crafty guards that like to make flashy passes and that kind of stuff.” So I think just seeing her be able to do that. And I told her it always applies on the offensive end, but it’s the same defensively. You always need to have a hand up contesting shots. Three-quarters on the block. So it’s kind of twofold. But that’s something I think that she’s done a much better job of doing. Because she’s able to catch a lot more passes now and finish at the basket.
HPH: With (Kelsey Mitchell, the number-two overall pick in 2018), what have you seen about her game? How has it progressed this year?
DUPREE: From last year to this year, obviously, she’s not playing as much at the one. So putting her at the two has actually given her a chance to create a little bit more. She still does push the ball in transition and try and get out and run all that kind of stuff. I would tell her, and not even just her but all of our guards, slow down. You all are playing like your pants are on fire. And you miss wide-open opportunities when you’re moving that fast. So I think once you kind of take a deep breath and slow down and just see what’s out there in front of her on the court, she should be able to do extremely well.
HPH: What are some ways that you help these young players off the court as they’re adjusting to being pro athletes?
DUPREE: If they have questions, I always let them know I’m here to answer. But outside of basketball, if anything, I try and give them space. You go from college, where (you have such a busy schedule every day), and now you have a little bit more freedom, actually, a lot more freedom, at the professional level. So my biggest thing is they know that I’m here, but I try not to be in the way because I know they’re young. They want to have fun. They want to enjoy stuff.
HPH: Is there anything else I didn’t hit on that you would like to talk about as far as wisdom you try to impart to the young team?
DUPREE: Wisdom? They’re hard-headed, you know, this generation. This generation is a lot different from mine when I was their age as a rookie in the WNBA or my first couple of years. For me, I was just all about basketball. And that’s not saying that they aren’t, but they tend to question a lot more. They want to know the why behind everything that we’re doing, which isn’t a bad thing. So I don’t know, it’s just different.
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