Her 15th WNBA season is over for former Wharton High star Candice Dupree, and while she wishes her summer also included the WNBA playoffs, she says she couldn’t be happier.
It was time to head home to be reunited with her three-year-old twins, Cali and Demi.
“I told my mom, whenever that last game is, I need you here the next morning to get me out of here,” Dupree said from Bradenton, where she wrapped up the season with her Indiana Fever teammates in the WNBA bubble at the IMG Academy on Sept. 12. “I want to get home.”
Home is Wesley Chapel, just up the road from Wharton, where Dupree remains the school’s all-time leading scorer.
Today, she says, her greatest accomplishments are raising the twins with wife DeWanna Bonner, a job she is eager to resume full time.
Because Dupree and Bonner are both WNBA players, it is often no easy task. They play for different teams, have different schedules and because most women’s basketball players make more money playing overseas — before coronavirus and this summer’s WNBA season, Dupree was playing in Hungary, DeWanna in China — they have a hectic travel schedule and few days off.
While some WNBA players brought their children into the bubble — basically an isolation zone to keep the players coronavirus-free so the season could be played — Dupree was able to rely on mom Patty and Dupree’s twin sister Crystal, who she jokes enlisted as the nanny the day Bonner gave birth to the twins.
“We didn’t really know what we’d be getting ourselves into inside the bubble,” Dupree says. “At home, they have school, they play outside and in the pool. They wouldn’t have been able to do that (in Bradenton).”
The bubble was an experience Dupree says she won’t forget. She was playing in Hungary when President Donald Trump enacted a travel ban from Europe because of coronavirus, and, the very next day, she was hustling to get back to Florida.
When she entered the bubble in June for the WNBA’s 22-game schedule, the league was at the forefront of the social justice movement (photo on next page) in the wake of the death of George Floyd and nationwide protests.
Dupree was active in the league’s initiatives and personally met with the League of Women Voters in hopes of becoming more involved with the voting community.
With the season over, Dupree is eager to spend time with the girls.
“My girls are to the point where, when we talk, they are like, “Momma, come home, when are you coming home?,” Dupree says. “Initially, they were not like that. But, they are starting to miss their parents.”
Dupree is not looking to return to Europe to play hoops anytime soon and, at the age of 36, her WNBA career is finally winding down.
She will be a free agent. Her stats this year were in line with her career numbers of 14.4 points and 6.6 rebounds a game, and she is in great shape physically. She could play another two years, she says.
“But if a different job opportunity comes my way, I wouldn’t hesitate to take it,” she added. Opportunities she is interested in exploring include coaching at the professional level.
Do You Remember When…
Dupree was a silky smooth forward for the Wildcats, becoming the school’s all-time leading scorer and winning the Dottie McGahagin Award as Hillsborough County’s best girls player in 2001-02 (to go with a 4.8 GPA). She went on to be an All-American at Temple University, playing for three-time Olympic gold medalist Dawn Staley, and was the No. 6 pick by Chicago in the WNBA draft in 2006.
One thing she never imagined while making buckets at Wharton is that she would one day be where she is today — a 15-year WNBA veteran, a seven-time All-Star, a 2014 WNBA champion and one of the best players the women’s league has ever seen.
“I never wanted to play in WNBA,” Dupree says. “I’m not going to lie. I didn’t even know what it was. I was so busy competing in so many different sports I never even watched pro sports on TV. I was just excited to be recruited and get a full ride somewhere.”
While it has been her consistency and steadiness that has defined her — she has never averaged less than double figures in points — Dupree is fifth all-time in WNBA career scoring, having put up more points than women’s basketball legends like Lisa Leslie, Sue Bird and Tina Charles.
In fact, for someone who never imagined playing professionally, Dupree is all over the WNBA career record book: second behind all-time leading scorer Diana Taurasi in field goals made, fourth in minutes played, and seventh in rebounding and games played.
In 2010, she put together one of the best WNBA seasons ever, averaging 15.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, shooting a blistering (and league-leading) 66.4 percent from the floor, and was second from the free throw line at 93.6 percent.
“I put together a pretty good resume,” Dupree says. “I’m on some lists with some very elite company. At some point, when I have I have time to sit back and reflect, I’ll say that was one helluva career. But, right now, I’m still wrapped up in it, playing and trying to win games, so I don’t pay it too much attention.”
Now that she’s home, Dupree plans to relax. She may check out the new Wiregrass Sports Campus of Pasco County near her home in The Ridge at Wiregrass, which recently hosted the seventh annual Candice Dupree Invitational, a girls basketball tournament for college hoops hopefuls. Dupree has sponsored teams for the tournament organizers, the East Tampa Youth Basketball Association, for years by buying them shoes and uniforms.
“It sounds great, we’ve needed something like that in that area for years,” Dupree says. She says one of her daughters may be interesting in the Sports Campus’ cheerleading program; the other, she laughs, leans more towards playing football.
And while she takes her kids on walks and plays with them in the pool, she’ll contemplate her next move.
“I’m not really in a rush,” Dupree admits. “I usually leave for Europe after Christmas but who knows if that will be happening. I just want to spend time with the girls and hang out for the time being. Then, we’ll see what happens.”