Tulsa’s Dupree Playing For Another Shot

Ronald Dupree leads the 66ers in scoring this season with a 18.2 ppg average.
Terrence Vaccaro/NBAE/Getty Images

By Mark Bodenrader, D-League.com

Orem, Utah, January 8, 2009 - The NBA D-League may be a step below the NBA, but it’s not without its name recognition. The league has always featured players that have experienced fame and success at some level of basketball during their career, be it high school, college or pros.

One of those players is Ronald Dupree, a high school hoops phenom who went on to star collegiately at LSU. Dupree has always been an incredible athlete and a scorer, able to beat his man off the dribble and jump out of the gym at a moment’s notice.

Of course, the hard reality is that the NBA has plenty of athletes and scorers, which is likely why Dupree didn’t hear his name called during the 2003 NBA Draft, and why he hasn’t been able to stick in the highest level up until this point.

While he failed to get drafted, Dupree did manage to sign with the Chicago Bulls and garner decent minutes in his rookie season. He averaged 19 minutes in 47 games – eight starts -- along with 6.2 ppg and 3.6 rpg. The next season he signed on with the Detroit Pistons and played in 47 more games, although he saw his minutes decline, a trend that would continue in the next three seasons with stops in Minnesota, Detroit again and Seattle.

But Dupree hasn’t let his past NBA experiences discourage him from continuing to pursue his dream and is now honing his craft in Tulsa and starring for the 66ers. Dupree currently leads the squad in scoring with an 18.2 ppg and is also averaging 5.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.5 steals per contest.

On top of Dupree’s statistical merit Tulsa head coach Paul Woolpert says the 6-7 forward’s NBA experience has made his job easier.

“Any time you’ve coached guys who have been in the NBA, they’ve had good coaching and they understand exactly what you are trying to do as a coach, whether it be at the offensive end or the defensive end,” said Woolpert. “You can talk about defensive rotations and defensive schemes because they’ve played them before and they’ve experienced them. Ron is very good at that. He’s very good at communicating with our younger guys as well.”

Of course, Dupree isn’t the only player on the 66ers with the NBA on his resume. Derrick Dial, Chris Richard and Ryan Humphrey have also had a taste. Still, most of the 66ers roster is made of up of younger players who haven’t had that experience and don’t know yet what it takes.

“It’s a tough situation because some guys just don’t know the principles,” said Dupree. “You have to communicate and get everybody on the same page. That’s the most important thing. It’s not like college or NBA where you have a focused training camp, where you have principles. Things aren’t as structured in this league. It comes down to individual players stepping up and leading a group, and trying to create as much chemistry as possible.”

Dupree has played in the D-League before. Last season he played nine games for Tulsa, averaging 17.2 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists. Prior to that he took part in 15 games for the now-defunct Huntsville Flight during the 2003-04 season, finishing with 16.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg and 1.5 apg.

However, this week marked his first Showcase, which brings out hoards of scouts and GMs. Dupree said that he made sure not to approach the event differently from any other game, and that doing so would be a mistake.

“If you start going one-on-one or trying to do things that you haven’t been doing over the course of a season I think that’s when guys don’t perform so well,” said Dupree. “You play off your teammates.”

Like most players hoping to make an impression at the Showcase, Dupree made sure to stress the importance of the team element, and what affect it has on individual success. Following Thursday’s dreadful loss to the Stampede that saw the 66ers score just 68 points, including only nine in the fourth quarter, Dupree was visibly upset. The loss sent Tulsa to 5-13 on the season.

“I think I played well, but when you don’t come out with wins, it’s not as good,” said Dupree. “(Thursday’s) game is another game we just gave away.”

When all was said and done, Dupree put together a solid Showcase. He totaled 15 points, nine rebounds and five assists in the team’s win over Erie before racking up 23 points, seven rebounds and five assists and three steals in the defeat to Idaho.

It remains to be seen if he made an impression on any NBA teams though.

According to Woolpert, the one thing Dupree needs to work on to get the attention of scouts is his shooting.

“He hits big shots, which is important,” said Woolpert. “But I do think the one thing Ron needs to work on his mid-range to his three-point shooting.”

For the season, Dupree is shooting 46 percent from the floor, 32 percent from beyond arc and 67 percent from the free throw line. Such numbers are respectable in the D-League, but likely not enough to attract NBA eyes.

But Dupree believes that aspect of his game is improving. He attributes his earlier problems with his shot to the team’s slow start, specifically the lack of flow on offense.

“We’ve been struggling with turnovers and getting into sets and executing,” said Dupree. “So a lot of shots that I have taken in the past have been with the shot clock going down. Force situations.”

If his numbers at the Showcase are any indication, he may have a point. In Tuesday’s win over Erie, Dupree shot 5-of-10 from the floor, including one of his two three-pointer attempts. In the loss to Idaho on Thursday, Dupree sank 8-of-13 field goal attempts.

“Ron is an NBA caliber player,” said Woolpert. “There’s no question about it. He’s proven it. At the offensive end he’s very explosive. He’s a type of guy who we can give him the ball and he can create on his own.

“One thing that Ronald has done very well as of late is defended. He got after it very well defensively (Thursday). And if he does that I think he’ll be back in the NBA very soon.”