A two-time FIBA World Championship gold medalist, 2014 WNBA champion with the Phoenix Mercury and five-time WNBA All-Star, Candice Dupree is hoping to add another item to her impressive basketball résumé next summer. She knows she doesn’t have many more chances to prove that she belongs on the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team, and the 31-year-old forward is doing everything in her power to impress USA Basketball National Team head coach Geno Auriemma and the USA National Team Selection Committee during the team's 10-day European Tour.
“To make the Olympic team would mean a lot,” said the silky-smooth shooter. “I'm starting to get old (laughs). I don't have too many more four-year time periods to keep waiting around. Hopefully next summer will be the one.”
Dupree knows that the competition will be intense for one of the 12 coveted slots and has turned to other aspects of her game that she can use to rise above others vying for a position in Rio.
One of those items on the former Temple University All-American’s checklist is being a more vocal leader.
“Definitely communication,” she quickly answered on what she’s working on. “Being that it's a different environment, I tend to go back into my shell a little bit, so that's something I can't do. I've had a lot of practice with it this summer, I had to step up into a leadership role and communicate more. So I’m trying to transfer that here to the USA National Team.”
Arriving two days late because of a previous commitment, Dupree got on the court with the U.S. team during a short morning practice on Oct. 4 before helping the USA capture a 84-52 victory over Uni Girona in Girona, Spain, that evening.
While seeing limited playing time in game one, Dupree made the most of her nine minutes of play. She went 2-of-3 from the field for four points, had three boards, two steals and an assist. After the game and one more practice on Monday, Dupree’s minutes are sure to rise for the USA’s Oct. 7 game against the Italian National Team in Rome.
Three-time Olympic gold medalist Dawn Staley, who was an assistant coach for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team and is currently serving her second quadrennium as a USA National Team assistant coach, was Dupree’s coach at Temple and has seen first-hand the growth in the Florida native’s game.
“Her ability to shoot from the outside constantly is the biggest difference,” said Staley. “She did a little bit of that her last year at Temple. But, now that she's been in the pros for a lot of years, it's developed and she's a true threat from outside, which is a great thing. She's a really good passer as well. She's just solid. She doesn't get too high with the highs or too low with the lows. She just maintains. Some people may think that she blends, but if you're a real basketball enthusiast, you see how effective she is just by what she brings to the table with her intelligence and her skill-set.”
Over each four-year USA National Team cycle, which features two major international events, the first is the FIBA World Championship followed two years later by the Olympic Games, there is generally a core group of athletes who compete in a World Championship and then go on to play in the Olympics two years later. And then many of the Olympians will continue on to the next World Championship as the next quad resumes.
But, while Dupree started in five of nine games and contributed 9.2 points and 6.0 rebounds per game in the 2010 Worlds, held in Czech Republic, her name was not on the final roster for the 2012 Olympics in London. She then helped the USA earn a second World Championship gold medal in 2014, but knows that it could be other things she does or doesn’t do that make the difference for 2016.
“Everybody on this team can score, so it's more about the little things like rebounding, defense, the hustle plays,” said Dupree.
“It's highly competitive,” said Staley. “I think what she has to continue to do is to make Geno proud. I think that's probably the last thing to check off. She's a pro amongst pros. She knows the offenses. She's been committed to coming to training camps. Now she just needs to fight it out with other people at her position. I told her she has to be a mad dog on the defensive end and rebounding. She has to shine through those intangibles. Because everybody can shoot, everybody can score, everybody can do those things that she does well. Her separation has got to be on the other side of the ball.”
If Dupree knows anything, it is the fact that this four-game tour could make or break her chances at being in Rio and she is not going to squander her opportunity.
“You just have to find a way to stand out,” Dupree stated. “You already know some, like Diana (Taurasi), Sue (Bird), like you kind of know what players will be there next summer. So, it's a matter of trying to find a way to separate yourself from everyone else trying out.”
While the USA National Team’s games in Europe will not be televised in the United States, you can follow along with the action via social media at: