• 15th in WNBA history in points scored.
• 11th in WNBA history in total rebounds.
• Five-time WNBA All-Star.
• WNBA champion.
These are just a few of the highlights on Candice Dupree’s resume. The Indiana Fever may have lost a WNBA great in Tamika Catchings, but who they added in Dupree, a star in her own right, is ready to help make sure the team doesn’t skip a beat in 2017.
With the retirement of Catchings, the Fever had a massive hole to fill in their starting lineup. Catchings had served as Indiana’s power forward for 15 consecutive seasons, almost as long as the franchise has existed.
Knowing this, Fever President Kelly Krauskopf had an important offseason ahead of her. You can’t fully replace a player like Catchings, but if you had to put together a short list of candidates who possibly could, Dupree would easily be in the conversation. When a deal for her became an option, Krauskopf jumped at the chance.
“When free agency began in February, you start talking to teams, you start talking about rosters, and I had the opportunity to talk to Phoenix about a potential trade to acquire her, and it worked out for us because she’s at a point in her career where she’s got so much experience and professionalism and she’s got a demeanor and a quality that I felt we were gonna need,” Krauskopf said.
Dupree was acquired as part of a three-team deal. From the Phoenix Mercury, the Fever received Dupree and a second-round draft pick (No. 17 overall) in the 2017 WNBA Draft. Indiana sent Lynetta Kizer and their first-round draft pick (No. 8 overall) to the Connecticut Sun. In the final piece of the deal, the Sun traded Camille Little and Jillian Alleyne to the Mercury.
“With losing the experience of Tamika Catchings, for me, I was literally looking for another veteran that could fill some of those intangible pieces, as well as the tangible pieces, and she brings all of that to the table.”
So just who is Candice Dupree? When members of the organization were asked to describe her, words like smart, smooth, composed, calm and poised were consistently used. She may not be the flashiest player, but what she lacks in flair, she makes up for in consistency.
“I think I’m a pretty versatile player,” Dupree said when asked to describe her style. “Pretty composed. A lot of people might think my game is kinda boring because I’m pretty fundamentally sound. Nothing flashy but get the job done.”
Dupree credits the way she plays to her upbringing under her mother Patty. Dupree’s mother served in the Air Force for 22 years, and Dupree was a “military kid,” living in Oklahoma, Germany, Wyoming and Florida.
“It [her military background] keeps me very organized, focused,” Dupree said. “It just instilled a lot of discipline in me. My mom just didn’t let us get away with too much of anything. She wasn’t super strict, but at the same time, we were held accountable for our actions. I think that’s followed me throughout the course of my basketball career.”
Dupree’s style has worked, as she’s played at a high level for a long time. During her 11-year WNBA career, she’s averaged 14.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game and made 50.3 percent of her attempts from the floor. In addition, she’s shot a superb 81.3 percent from the free-throw line.
She has big shoes to fill as she’ll occupy the spot in the starting lineup previously held by Catchings, but while it’s a talking point for everyone outside of the locker room, inside, it’s business as usual.
“Not at all, just playing my game,” Dupree said when asked if she’s thought about who she’s taking over for. “I’m not looking to come in and replace anybody, be the face of the franchise. Just come in and do what I do and help this team win.”
“It would be unfair to task someone with replacing Tamika Catchings,” Fever head coach Pokey Chatman said. “I think she’s a nice fit because not only does she fill a gap in play, she’s also a high IQ post player, which is wonderful. I think that helps someone like a Briann January, who probably feels like she has to shoulder a lot of the load.”
Dupree’s teammates agree, saying she is the answer to the team’s questions at power forward.
“In my opinion, she’s a perfect fit for our franchise,” Fever guard Jeanette Pohlen-Mavunga said. “She’s just very smart. I think she’ll complement our starters very well when she’s out there.”
“She’s honestly exactly what we needed, her poise, her veteran leadership, her composure,” Fever guard Briann January added. “She just has this energy, this calming energy that we need because at times last year, we just got out of control.”
“Whenever she catches the ball things stop, and we need that. We need that for our team because we can get a little too fast sometimes. She’s been successful at every level and is a phenomenal basketball player. She’s already made a huge impact on our team.”
As for Dupree, she’s happy to be in Indiana. For one, she’s familiar with who’s at the helm, having played under Chatman previously. Chatman was her coach for two seasons in Russia when Dupree starred for Spartak Moscow Region, and she’s ready for another go-round.
“For me, she’s a lot of fun to play for,” Dupree said. “I enjoy playing for coaches that get fired up, and they’re really intense. They’re not afraid to scream and yell and hold people accountable. I think as players we feed off of that energy.”
Dupree already feels comfortable with her teammates and plans on taking advantage of the new and unique opportunity in front of her.
“I think I’m fitting in pretty well,” Dupree said. “I’m having a lot of fun. Everybody gets along really well, so it’s nice to be in an environment like that.”
“It’s definitely an opportunity I’m looking forward to. I think I’ll have a different role on this team. Being in Phoenix was great but you’re playing alongside Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner, so you’ve kinda got to take a back seat to that stuff. Here, I don’t know that I’ll necessarily have to do that, so it’s pretty exciting to me to have more of a scoring role on the team. So, I’m looking forward to that.”
And likewise, the Fever are looking forward to having her.
“Candice Dupree in my view is one of the top three or four power forwards in the WNBA,” Krauskopf said. “She’s a presence that helps all of our players.”
“She’s just this military kid that keeps it short and sweet and direct,” Chatman said. “She’s really comfortable in her own skin and how she plays the game and how she can affect people. It may not be boisterous, but it’ll be effective.”
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