'Still ironing out the kinks'
(Editor's note: Temple's Candice Dupree was the sixth overall pick in the WNBA draft. The Chicago Sky rookie will share the story of her transition to pro basketball with ESPN.com throughout the 2006 season.)
Hey everyone! It has been awhile since you last heard from me. I have been busy with practices, travelling, games, and other obligations.
After an undefeated preseason, it was time for the games that really counted. Our first game ended up being a "thriller" against Charlotte in North Carolina. We were ahead for the entire game before Charlotte made an unbelievable comeback in three and a half minutes! The Sting went on an unheard of 18-0 run to nearly close the game, but we ended up pulling it out with seconds left on three free throws from Jia Perkins. It was a good win for us, especially on the road, but we realized that we have to close those kinds of games out.
Plus, the schedule we were about to embark on was going to test us tremendously. When I first looked at our game schedule, there were a couple of games that stood out. I looked forward to the home opener, playing in front of the home crowd, especially after having a good showing during the preseason. There was the West Coast trip that would keep us out of Chicago for almost a week. And lastly, of course, was the Houston game on June 2. When I look at the schedule now, I realize that eight out of our first 10 games are against former league champions. I guess it's a good thing to play against the best early on to see where we are as a team. That doesn't mean that our other games will be easy. You still have to come out and play every night. And we've shown that we are capable of competing with these teams.
Opening night was very exciting for me. Not only was it my first official game in the league as a rookie, it was the beginning of an era for the city of Chicago. I have heard a couple stories about the WBL's Chicago Hustle and how excited the fans in this city were to have that team. That was a league before my time and helped pave the way for future women's professional leagues. And it was very fitting for WNBA President Donna Orender to be present at our opening night, especially since she actually played for the Hustle and witnessed Chicago being a great city for women's basketball. We were also treated to a beautiful rendition of the national anthem by Michelle Williams, one of the franchise's minority owners and a member of the R&B group Destiny's Child.
After three straight home games, it was time to hit the road again. This time we headed down to Houston. Obviously, this game had some meaning. It was the first time a college head coach -- Dawn Staley -- and her player ever played against each other. It was also a Temple reunion of sorts because several of my former teammates flew into town to see the game. The night before the game, Coach Staley and I had dinner together and did some catching up before our showdown the next day. During the game, I could hear Coach Staley telling me to "shoot!" She's a master at mind games so I didn't know if she was trying to throw me off or if she really wanted me to score. It was probably a little bit of both considering we cut the Comets' 21-point lead late in the game to single digits.
It was a game that I will always remember. I'm honored that I have the opportunity to be a significant part of Coach Staley's final season. She has been supportive of me throughout my transition into the WNBA and I'm sure that my success in this league will make her very proud. We'll finish that chapter of her storied career on July 14 when Houston comes to Chicago.
The atmosphere at our home games has been electric. From the drum line to the screaming fans, you would never know that we didn't sell out every game. That's how loud it gets. The fans who come to the games stick by us until the final horn sounds and that is admirable. I enjoy seeing the smiles on the kids' faces after the games when we sign autographs for them. Whether we win, they still see us as "stars" and it means a lot to them to show them our appreciation. That's the best part about this job.
We are still ironing out some kinks but we will be fine. The season is far from over so don't count us out just yet. We're not expected to do very well because we're an expansion team. But believe me, none of us are buying into that. At the end of the day, we are still competitors and losing is not alright, no matter what the circumstances are.