Stranger in a 'strange' land

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

Nov. 28, 2005

When I was first asked to share my thoughts over the course of the season to the ESPN.com readers, I was a little hesitant. Anyone who has ever heard experts, and Coach Staley for that matter, describe me on the court knows that I am often referred to as "emotionless." I promise you, though, I'm not completely emotionless in real life!

I am, however, a pretty private person and don't often talk about myself. My focus is almost always on basketball and I didn't think that this would make for great reading. Hmm … maybe I'm more like Coach Staley than I realize.

We here at Temple do have a lot of fun on the road, though, and with a three-time Olympic gold medalist and WNBA star as your coach, we probably get to do and see a lot of things that other teams may not. So I'm going to describe them and "open up" as best I can. Hope you guys enjoy it!

After I got back from the World University Games in Turkey, I felt confident in the improvements I had made to my game and eagerly anticipated the start of the season. From the time preseason started, all of us were looking ahead to Nov. 11 and game time. There is a certain excitement that comes along with trying to improve on a season like we had last year. No one expected us to do as well as we did, to beat ranked teams, to earn a No. 15 ranking or to go 25 games without a loss. Last year was incredible.

But here I was at the start of 2005-06, without two key seniors from last year's team, and I knew I was going to have to step up. I'm not a very vocal person, so there was no way that I could be expected to fill in for Ari (Moore), our emotional leader from last season. But luckily Coach knows that and allows me to lead the only way I know how, by just playing well.

We started the season at the Women's Sports Foundation Tournament at the University of Oregon, quite a long way away from Philadelphia and Temple University. After being there (and tons of people asking us how it was), the only word that I can use to describe it is rustic. Lots of trees, fresh air and, as the guy told us when we got there, full of hippies.

Everyone was so nice … almost too nice for us city folk. In Philly, we don't talk to people that we don't know. In Oregon, the word "stranger" doesn't exist. Being that I don't really do well with those sorts of things, it was a little hard to adjust to at first. I mean, even after we beat Oregon on its home court, the fans were thanking us for coming and showing them a good game. Are they for real?! We eventually came to expect it, but I have to admit that it was kind of nice to come back home and blend into the background again. That might sound weird, but that's where I feel most comfortable.

Anyway, we left really early in the morning and by the time we arrived at our hotel in Eugene, Ore., it was almost a full 24 hours from the time that we got up. Boy, oh boy, I thought, we better get some wins because this trip has been brutal already! Flying commercial is never comfortable for a basketball player because there is never enough leg room. All these commercials might boast more leg room, but I have yet to see it. I even tried to get bumped up to Economy Plus so that I would get more room … even after the person at the desk got a look at me, she still said no.

So we flew. First to Denver and then on to Portland. Everyone said it was going to rain the whole time, but when we got there it was sunny, so I didn't know what they were talking about. We made our first stop at Nike Headquarters for practice. Yeah, one of the perks of your coach being a Nike athlete, I guess. It was pretty funny because all of the buildings were named after Nike athletes, like Nolan Ryan or Lance Armstrong. We were practicing in the Bo Jackson Building and the court was pretty cool, all glass walls so that the sun was shining on us. After practicing, all the coaches and staff got to go to the Nike Employee Store and buy lots of stuff at wholesale prices. We got to take a shower, get changed and wait for them. After they finally came back, we stopped off for dinner and started our two-hour ride to Eugene. It was pretty late by the time we got there so we all collapsed into our beds in this rustic lodge-type place with a mall on one side and a river on the other.

Practice went well, but I was ready to play for real. We had Michigan in the first game and though we didn't play as well as we should have, won 65-48 and moved on to face Oregon the next night. We knew the Ducks would be tough and they started playing from the first whistle. We got down early and I knew that I had to step it up or we might not pull this one out. We ended up winning that game, too, and took home the tournament title. I was voted MVP and Kamesha got on the all-tournament team. It felt good because we weren't sure how things were going to go after starting the same five players last season.

Getting two wins to start the season took some of the pressure off. Coach was proud of us and took us to Olive Garden for a little celebration dinner. We won't ever say that she doesn't take us out for fine dinning.

The next morning we left to fly back to Philly. I just couldn't wait to spend a whole day traveling again. After what seemed like three days, we finally landed in Philly and I couldn't wait to sleep in my own bed. I was tired. In fact, I think I've had enough reflecting for one sitting. Hope you all enjoyed hearing about Temple's little romp through Oregon. Don't worry, I'll write again!