Rhode Island or Bus-t

Updated: March 3, 2006, 8:38 PM ET

Editor's note: Temple senior Candice Dupree is sharing a diary with ESPN.com throughout the 2005-06 season.

Feb. 28, 2006

DUPREE'S DOUBLE
Temple senior Candice Dupree was named the 2006 Atlantic 10 conference women's basketball player of the year for the second straight season and also repeated as defensive player of the year.

The forward ranks second in the Atlantic 10 in scoring (17.0 ppg) and third in rebounding (9.2 rpg). She leads the league in blocked shots (2.4), helping the Owls hold opponents to an average of 54.7 points a game, 14th in the nation and second in the conference.

She led the 22th-ranked Owls to their third straight 20-win season with a 20-7 mark. One of those wins included a 48-47 win on Jan. 19 over then-No. 9 Rutgers in Temple's first win over a top-10 team.
-- Associated Press

Hey everyone! It has been a long time since you last heard from me, but it has been so busy around here with the regular season finally wrapping up. We ended up finishing third behind George Washington and Charlotte as we head into the conference tournament.

This season has had its share of ups and downs. We've lost games we were expected to win, lost our starting point guard to an injury for seven games and we struggled to find our identity early on. I even hit a couple bumps in the road, too. But, we persevered. We managed to reach the 20-win mark again, repeated as Big 5 champions, beat a top-10 team for the first time in our program's history and I was named the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive season. We've had our character tested and had to deal with all of the pressures that come from being the hunted -- all season long. It has made us stronger individually and as a team. I can't think of a better time for us to finally start peaking than right now.

After losing to George Washington on Senior Night, we headed to the University of Rhode Island for the last regular-season game of my career. Let me just say that Senior Night is the worst night to have a game on. You either come out swingin' or you come out getting swung on! And it's not just us, because I've seen other Senior Night games that took a turn for the worse after the jump ball!

So … back to the URI trip. We practiced early that morning so we could get on the bus and hit the road for this five-hour trip. There was something unusual in the air about this trip, but I just couldn't put my finger on it. We were all standing in the garage of the Liacouras Center with our bags waiting for our bus to show up. One of the men's basketball managers walked by us and said we all looked like we had been displaced from our homes!

Then, about 20 minutes after our scheduled departure time, our bus finally comes rolling down the ramp like it was on time. Coach Staley was a little irritated by the tardiness, but once she saw who was driving she just had to laugh. We had this same driver on one of our trips earlier in the season and to put it plain and simple, she was a mess. She pulls into the garage and tries to make this tight u-turn. Oh my goodness! She pretty much lodged the bus between a car and pole just trying to make the turn. After all the repeated reversing and forwarding, coach finally had enough and made everyone get on the bus … as it was! Let's not forget that we still have yet to make it out of this u-turn. She steps on the accelerator and I promise you that everyone on the bus was jerked forward a couple of feet! Once we finally got going on the road, (even after the illegal left-hand turn she made to get to the interstate!) the biggest decision had yet to be made.

Candice Dupree
Joseph Labolito/WireImage.comESPN experts voted Candice Dupree one of the top five forwards in the country.

Every road trip poses the same dilemma: What movies are we going to watch? We've got people who want to watch movies like The 40-year old Virgin and Blue Streak. But the worst request of them all has to be …The Wiz. Natalia, our Director of Operations, has been trying to get us to watch this movie on the bus for the past two years. And without fail, every trip she yells to the back of the bus, "Who wants to watch The Wiz?" Everyone always screams, "No!" She proceeds to tell us that we should all be ashamed of ourselves for not ever seeing the movie in the first place.

Well, like I said before, there was something unusual in the air with this trip. We actually decided to watch The Wiz. If you're not familiar with this movie, it's the black version of The Wizard of Oz, starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. I'm telling you that the first solo performance hadn't even finished before coach said, "No! This movie has to go!" Natalia was so offended that nobody wanted to watch the movie. She kept talking about how it's Black History Month and how we need to be enlightened. Get out of here with all that, Nat!! So we ended up watching, The 40-year old Virgin … or should I say it watched us because everyone was asleep. When we got to the hotel, we went to get something to eat in Newport. My mom came up for the game, so I got to see some of my family from the New England area. Then it was time to wind down and get some rest for the game the next day.

We had an early shootaround and because the hotel was a good distance from the school, we had to leave earlier than usual. I got on the bus and noticed it was very cold because the bus wasn't turned on. Our driver was nowhere to be found, either. We had about five minutes until it was time to leave and coach got off the bus to find her because she was cold. The driver shows up and says the bus is on. She tells the staff that the bus has a "Robosco" system or some nonsense that was supposed to convince us that the heat was on. You should've seen their faces! Let me just tell you that the bus wasn't even remotely close to being turned on or pumping out any heat whatsoever.

Anyway, the Rhode Island game was bittersweet for me. It was my last regular-season game and it was against coach [Ervin] Monier, the Rams' associate head coach who recruited me [he was an assistant at Temple from 2000-04]. Although he only coached me for two seasons, we have a very close relationship. He has supported me throughout my college career and what better way to show him my appreciation than to play well in front of him. We racked up the most points since mid-1980s en route to our 21st victory of the season. I played well enough to sit out the last 10 minutes of the game while our reserves finished off the victory. After all of the goodbyes to my family and coach Monier, it was time to head back to Philadelphia. We watched Madea's Family Reunion and laughed the rest of the way home.

It's time to get ready for the tournament, both the Atlantic 10 and the NCAAs. I feel like we can surprise some people this season as long as we stay focused and stay together.

It has been fun sharing parts of me with ESPN.com this season. A lot of good has come out of basketball for me and I'm going to continue to do right by the game. Don't sleep on the Owls! We just might surprise some of you. If this game brings me to the next level, Lord willing, I will do my best to represent myself, my family and TU to the fullest. Most people didn't really know who I was …but hopefully you recognize me now. Take Care.

-- Candice Dupree

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