Nov. 11, 2009
By Zach Stipe, Media Relations Graduate Assistant
When Tennessee Lady Vol freshman center Faith Dupree reported to the scorer's table to check into the exhibition contest against Delta State on Monday night - her first game in a Big Orange uniform -she looked to her right and saw a familiar face.
As they had many times before as teammates at The Webb School in Knoxville, Dupree and Lady Vol sophomore forward Glory Johnson stormed the court side by side.
It's a scene destined to repeat itself over the next few years at Thompson-Boling Arena.
"It's going to be a lot of fun," Dupree said. "I missed playing with Glory last year. This year, I'm going to take advantage of having her on the court with me. It has helped me out as a freshman here already knowing her."
Dupree and Johnson led the Lady Spartans to the Tennessee Division II-AA state title together in 2007 under Webb coach and former Lady Vol captain Shelly Sexton Collier. UT head women's basketball coach Pat Summitt plans to pair the two together in the post at times this season as she did in the Big Orange's final exhibition. The hope is the local duo can bring another championship back to Knoxville.
"They played together in high school, and they played in the high-low game," Summitt said. "I think that when they are playing together they look for each other. They're connected. There will be times when I'm sure the two of them will be our two post players."
Dupree brings an effective mid-range offensive game that not only complements Johnson's bouncy, wiry style, but also that of more-traditional posts, junior Vicki Baugh and sophomores Kelley Cain and Alyssia Brewer.
Additionally, the 6-3 post proved her dominance on the high school level by leading Webb to another state title last season, averaging 16.7 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, with Johnson in the midst of her rookie season at UT.
"I think her biggest strength is in the paint, but I definitely think she can extend her range," Summitt said. "She plays within herself. She doesn't try to do things she hasn't worked on before so she will stick to more of the 15-footer. She is also very efficient around the basket."
Dupree didn't make a dent in the box score in her first collegiate contest Monday, but flashed some of the potential that made her the eighth Knoxville native ever signed by Summitt, showing her extended range when a couple of elbow jumpers just barely rattled out, as she works her way back into shape after suffering lower back spasms during the preseason.
Dupree recognizes what she can bring to the Tennessee program, but also realizes there are parts of her game she must improve at the college level.
"My biggest strength is probably my shot around the free throw line and the elbows," she said. "That will bring out the defense towards me and open up the lower post. My defense has been lacking at the college level, though. Right now, that's what I'm working on the most."
Summitt, the winningest NCAA basketball coach of all-time, agrees, noting she had a trusted scout tip her off on Dupree's potential years ago.
"Her biggest challenge is going to be getting in great shape and extending her defense," Summitt said. "I got to see her play at Webb, when my son Tyler was there. They graduated at the same time. He told me early on that he thought Faith was going to have a chance to play at this level. Watching her and now coaching her, I'm obviously pleased at what she has brought to the post game."