Candice Dupree has been having one of the most solid and consistent careers in the WNBA for 15 years now. At 36, she still is one of the best power forwards in the game even if she missed the playoffs with a young Indiana Fever team this season, in the bubble of Bradenton.
The 7 time All-Star, WNBA champion, two time World Cup winner and n°2 in Field Goals in the history of the league behind Diana Taurasi, discussed this unusual season in Florida, her journey, her legacy and even the bright future of her Belgian teammate, our very own Julie Allemand.
Swish Swish is a french speaking media but we like to share some of our interviews in English. They can be found here.
The season is not completely over yet for the Fever, there is one game left. But how do you feel after this very special experience in the Wubble ? And what do you think you will remember the most about it in a few years ?
Like you said, it was a very unique stuff… Not because we played during the summer, because we are all used to ball, but it was definately unique being around all the teams in one setting and enjoy not being on planes and in different hotels all the time. For me that was a huge upside. It was different in that we were playing games every other day so it is definately taxing on the body, physically and mentally. Just trying to find ways to recoup and recover after games, but it gave a huge opportunity to spend more time together as players, hang out a little bit more, get to know each other… All and all, for me, it hasn’t been a horrible experience, but I will say that I will be glad to leave the bubble.
I can only imagine how hard it must be to be apart from your daughters. How did you manage to keep your focus on the games during this season ?
Just by being a pro ! That is something I have always been coached to do : being a pro and play the game the right way. Like you said, I have definately been missing my family, my girls. But I talk to them as much as I can via Facetime. I’m here in the bubble to play basketball, so they watch the games from time to time. I just try to stay locked in and do my job.
A lot of people thought Indiana would make the playoffs this year. There were a lot of things to deal with – what were the missing pieces of the puzzle to reach the post-season according to you ?
I definately think we could have made the playoffs with the players that we had, there were a couple games that we let slip away… The two games against Dallas and some others were we just kinda lost things at the end of the game. I think that if we were able to put 40 minutes together and finish those games to win, we would clearly be in a playoffs spot right now. With the pieces that we had, we had enough to do it; but we were just not able to pull it off this year.
You still had a pretty good season in year 15, how do you manage to look so young on the court ?
Four months of down time, self quanrantining, I actually did a lot of lifting, a lot of running, cut some things of my diet that I didn’t need to be drinking and eating… I didn’t know when the season was going to start, but I kept hearing that we were definately going to have a season. At times I got a little fed up of working out, I was just over it, but I kept pushing through, my family helped keep me going with all of that, but I felt really good during the season, my body feels great. Mentally, I definately need a break now, after being in the bubble and being around so much basketball all the time and not having a way to get away from it. So I’m definately looking forward to that.
With so many games played in a short amount of time, wasn’t it a little more physically demanding than during a classic season ?
Not at all. There were no travelling, no airplanes… You know, they take a toll on your body. Travelling and having back to back, all of that, is demanding… My body actually felt really good considering we were playing every other day.
Half of our crew is from Belgium, so, you know, I have to ask you about Julie ! She looked amazing to us. What are your thoughts about her and her first season in the league ?
I love Julie ! I love her game, I love who she is as a person. I think she played really well for us. Unfortunately, she did have to play A LOT of minutes and I think that kind of started to show a little bit later into the season. I like the composure she played with. She can shoot the ball, she does a great job of getting us in our offensive sets. I really like her game. She will absolutely have a good future in the league. I know she has got her national team commitment and all that kind of stuff, but I definately think she has a great future in the WNBA.
I’d like to talk about your journey now. You were born in OKC, you lived in Wyoming, but also went to high school in Florida, can you guide me through your childhood and how you came to basketball ?
So, let’s see : my mom was in the military, which is why my sisters and I lived in so many different places. She’s in the Air Force. I started playing basketball when I lived in Cheyenne, Wyoming. I played on my first team when I was in 4th grade. Actually, I played just every sport you can think of. It wasn’t just basketball. I played for an AAU/travelling team, prior moving to Florida when I was 12. At that time, due to the lack of funding, they had taken other sports out of school in Florida; If you didn’t play for an AAU team, or play for a ref league at the YMCA, you couldn’t play basketball before high school. So, in 8th grade, at 13, I actually started practicing with the high school team before I even got to high school. Along with basketball, I played volleyball, track and fields, softball, like everything, at the end of the day, once I got my senior/college, I realized it came down to volleyball or basketball in college. I figured I would have career opportunities playing basketball professionnally with the WNBA, playing overseas…
Pretty good choice !
(she laughs) Yeah, I think so !
Did you have favorite players growing up, men or women ?
I did not. I was so busy always engaged in something that I never watched professional sports. It was always on TV, but I never watched it. So there was nobody I wanted to follow the steps.
Dawn Staley was your coach in college at Temple. She has been one of the most revered women in the game for years. How did she influence your game and your mentality back then ?
The biggest thing with her was she always taught her players to respect the game and then as I got closer to possibly play at the pro level. She taught me how to be a pro. There were always different things I had to do in practice before leaving the gym. While I was at school, she was still playing in the WNBA, so we had the opportunity to watch her play in New York, Washington DC, Connecticut, where we had little road trips. I don’t think there are many players that can say the had the opportunity to watch their college coach competing at such a high level. We were able to watch her carry the flag for the United States at the Olympics, all kinds of amazing stuff like that. Just to have somebody like her in your life, somebody to look up to, is incredible. We were like ‘Man, this is our basketball coach playing on the court’… And then these days, we talk from time to time, but not like on a weekly basis or anything like that. When we talk, she’s just asking about me and my girls. We have a very good relationship.
In Phoenix you played in an amazing team with Diana Taurasi, Penny Taylor, Brittney Griner and of course DeWanna (Bonner, the mother of her twin daughters Cali and Demi, NDLR), what are your fondest memories of your time there ? And in retrospect, why do you think the team did not win more than one title ?
I will always cherish my first playoffs game ever and scoring 32 points with the mercury. Obviously winning my championship there. It was just a great group of players to be around. They were ultimate pros. Everybody did their job, everybody played hard. Of course, we were extremely talented. I believe we still have the best record in history with 4 losses the year we won the championship. It’s pretty amazing. We just had a really good time playing with each other. The year after we won, Diana and Penny had the season out. So we never had the opportunity to go back and win after that title. After that, people just kind of moved on in their career, players got traded, all that kind of stuff.
You played in Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Russia and China. What do you think all these experiences abroad brought to you on a personal and professional level ?
I have had the opportunity to see the world through the game of basketball ! I have met some amazing people. When you are in the WNBA, there is not really an off-season to expand your game. Playing overseas gives you an opportunity to do that. I have been able to do that for years. For the most part, all of my overseas experiences have been great. I wouldn’t change any of it. The good, the bad… I grew up and learnt a lot over there. I actually spent more time overseas that in the US during my 15 years.
Do you still want to play overseas before the end of your career ?
Ouuuh, I don’t know about that (she laughs) ! I don’t know ! Right now, I would say no. But you never know. I guess the reason I’m saying no now is because of the pandemic and because I have no idea what money is going to look like these days. I know a lot of sponsors took some major hit because of the pandemic. So we’ll se !
Here’s an idea : since one of your best kept secrets is your cooking skills and you wanting to go to a culinary arts school when you were in college, why don’t you play in France for one year and combine business and pleasure ?
(She laughs) I mean, yeah, I’d like to combine that, but you have to get somebody to offer me the right kind of money, that’s all. It’s true that I love culinary arts. I do love cooking for other people. Not so much for myself because that’s kind of boring. But I do like cooking for others. I cooked for my team in the bubble, but I told them I would only do it one time !
Your career and your resume are amazing and I think you’re one of the best players of all time at your position, but I also feel like your name tends to get a little lost in the shuffle when discussing WNBA greats. Do you feel that way too ?
Yes, I do. But I try to not pay not too much attention to it. At the end of the day, the accolades, the numbers, the stats, they don’t lie. I have never been one that needs the light. I will just continue to do my job, flying under the radar.
The league has changed since your first season, even if we still have an MVP Caliber Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird playing great and you being you, Who are the most exciting young players, ready to takeover now or in the next few years according to you ?
One name for sure : A’ja Wilson. She would probably be at the top of my list. Obviously you already have Breanna Stewart. Who else ? Some young guards, I think. Arike Ogunbowale is a very good one. She will definately be the future of the league. Satou Sabally also, for sure. I love her game. She’s a pro even if she’s only a rookie. Sabrina Ionescu unfortunately got injured and what she will be abe to do remains to be seen until next year.
Do you plan on playing net season ? Are we sure to be able to watch you play at least one more year ?
Hummm… I think so (she laughs). But you never know, there is still a lot of time between now and then.