Faith Dupree to transfer

Lady Vol Faith Dupree has decided to transfer to Chattanooga in a case of unusual timing but also uncommon lack of ill will on either side when a player opts to leave a program. The Knoxville native will finish the fall semester and – if it's OK with her soon-to-be new coach – continue to work out with the Lady Vols until she departs from Tennessee.

When a player wants to transfer that is usually preceded by discontent and then separation from the team, but Faith Dupree, a 6'3 redshirt freshman, sat a few feet away from Head Coach Pat Summitt on Friday after practice at Pratt Pavilion and explained her decision, especially the odd timing of a decision to transfer before official practice has even started.

"The timing wasn't very good," Dupree said with a wry look. "I was thinking about it this summer but I had put it in my head that I would stick out this year and try playing and see how that goes, but nothing really … it wasn't bad but nothing was getting better.

"I wanted to go somewhere and make an impact as soon as I got there. I love these girls. It is nothing against this place or me personally."

Dupree said she had initially wanted to transfer before the fall semester started but a conversation with her family convinced her to stay at Tennessee at least one playing season.

"I talked to my mom a lot and she was like, ‘Well, you've always wanted to go here, at least try a year of playing,' " Dupree said. "I was like, ‘OK, that's reasonable.' I tried. It didn't work out. I just wasn't happy. There wasn't anything anybody could do."

Dupree, who performed well in the Women's Pilot Rocky Top League last June, said the summer ended up being difficult for her.

"It wasn't necessarily on the court," Dupree said. "My grandmother had surgery this summer. It didn't go well and she's still trying to recover from it. I had chemistry and calculus and I was stressed to the max and it brought me down to a low depression state. That is what pretty much started everything."

Dupree agreed to start the semester at Tennessee but a few weeks into preseason and workouts, she realized her summer position had not changed, and she approached Summitt to discuss a transfer. There were two meetings with Summitt and Daedra Charles-Furlow, the director of character development, in which Dupree stated her desire to leave.

"This is all me," Dupree said. "Nobody said you should probably transfer. I had to go to my mom, I had to go to Coach, I had to go to the girls and tell them this was my decision. There was nobody on the outside that wanted me to do this. Everybody was supportive."

Tennessee granted permission for Dupree to make contact with other schools and Chattanooga became the lead because of proximity and its need for post players.

"It was smaller DI and they had two or three posts graduate or decide not to play and right now they're hurting in the post area so I could definitely make an impact there," Dupree said. "My sister loves Chattanooga and every time I've been there to visit it's been a good place. I felt good about it."

Dupree's older sister, Emily Dupree, is a senior volleyball player at Covenant College.

"She lives in Lookout Mountain, which is right beside Chattanooga," Dupree said. "She is applying to UTC for nursing (graduate program), and she also is applying here so we might be switching spots."

Dupree approached Summitt last month with her request to transfer, wavered a little and then stayed with her decision.

"Faith came to me," Summitt said. "I met with her and her mother. Daedra was with us. She said she wanted to go somewhere where they needed a post player and she could play right away.

"At first I thought she might want to stay but she made it clear she wants to play and with the roster that we have of post players, I think she saw that and she wanted to go somewhere where she could step on the court and be a difference maker. She asked if she could keep working out and I said, ‘Absolutely.' I want to see her be successful."

Dupree won't leave Tennessee until the end of the fall semester so that she will remain in good academic standing and then she will enroll at Chattanooga. Because of the NCAA's year in residence rule Dupree likely won't be eligible to play for the Lady Mocs until midway through the 2011-12 season and then would have 2.5 years to play since she has already used a redshirt season to recover from back issues.

However, Chattanooga may ask the NCAA to grant an exception to the residence rule since Dupree won't play in any games for Tennessee this semester. Dupree said either scenario – play next fall or wait until midway through the 2011-12 season – was OK with her. Dupree asked to continue working out with the Lady Vols at practice to maintain basketball shape, and she will check with Chattanooga Head Coach Wes Moore to make sure that he is OK with that decision.

"I am thinking he will be OK with it, but I just want to make sure," Dupree said.

A situation that could have been awkward – Chattanooga and Tennessee play each other this season and next, first in Knoxville and then in Chattanooga – has been downright amicable.

"I still love the girls," said Dupree, who will have the team over to her mother's house for a home-cooked meal before she leaves town. "It'll be fun when we play each other. Nobody has hard feelings towards me and I don't have any hard feelings towards anybody else."

Chattanooga also allows Dupree to put some distance between her and Knoxville but still be close to her hometown.

"I've been here forever," she said. "New scenery would probably be a good change."

Dupree was a local standout at Webb School of Knoxville – her coach was former Lady Vol Shelley Sexton Collier – and in 124 games she tallied 1,724 points, 802 rebounds, 244 blocks, 208 assists and 169 steals. Dupree averaged 16.7 points and 7.4 rebounds a game as a senior and was selected as an Honorable Mention All-American by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association.

She played in the first two games of the 2009-10 season before shutting down for several months from court work because of chronic lower back pain that she also had suffered in high school. Dupree returned to practice on a limited basis last spring and worked out on campus while enrolled in summer school.

That back ailment also seemed to drive the decision to transfer.

"Especially being hurt last year I took that much big of a step back than if I wasn't hurt," Dupree said. "Now I'm not only behind Lyssi, Glory, Kelley and Vicki, I am even a step further behind because of being hurt."

Dupree was referring to Glory Johnson, a former teammate at Webb, Kelley Cain, Vicki Baugh, who has looked outstanding in practice after missing 18 months because of ACL injuries, and Alyssia Brewer, who is out indefinitely with a torn Achilles tendon.

"With her being here with all the post players that we had and knowing it would be a challenge … I think she wanted to pick a school that needed a post player right away and that's what she's got," Summitt said.

Dupree would have logged minutes this season – Baugh and Cain both have a history of knee injuries and will have to be monitored in terms of pounding and minutes played – and Brewer, who got hurt when a candle base shattered at her apartment, won't practice for weeks and will miss at least the early part of the season. But Dupree wanted a long-term solution at a school in need of post players.

"I think with her decision to go with Wes Moore I think she's excited about that," Summitt said. "She'll have a big impact. He's got a lot of really good guards, but he really needed a post player. I think she knew that. She went and visited him."

Dupree called Moore with her decision, and he had an exuberant reaction.

"He screamed in the phone," Dupree said. "You know that scene in ‘Jerry Maguire' where he's hitting the dashboard because he's happy? He said imagine that because that was what he was doing. He was driving at the time. He's happy now."

Dupree can score inside and step out and hit three-pointers, as she displayed in the summer league last June.

"She's got a nice face-up, good post-up skills," Summitt said.

Dupree said she didn't consider any SEC schools and would follow Tennessee's games and pull for the Lady Vols except when they play her new team.

"If I don't want to be here I don't want to be at any other SEC school," Dupree said. "This is the best one. (I'll) text the girls during the game and after the game."

The loss of Dupree means Tennessee now has one additional scholarship to offer to a recruit in the class of 2011. Point guard Ariel Massengale and forward Cierra Burdick are already committed, and Tennessee is recruiting post players Elizabeth Williams, Kiah Stokes and Isabelle Harrison. The national perception could be that Dupree's exit allows the Lady Vols to sign two post players instead of one but Summitt bristled at that notion.

"I could care less what everybody out there thinks," Summitt said. "Anybody that knows me and knows Faith and her family knows that I want her to be happy. It was her decision. There is absolutely nothing else that I can say.

"I told her if that's what you want to do, I support you 100 percent. I want her to be happy and to be successful."

Tennessee also could opt to hold the extra scholarship for the post-deep high school class of 2012 and the overall deep class of 2013. Tennessee has two commits from those classes already – 2012 point guard Andraya Carter and 2013 guard/forward Kaela Davis.

Summitt can't discuss any recruit by name by NCAA rules, but she can talk about the number she intends to sign in classes, and the coach said Friday that she would discuss the matter with her staff about how to allocate available scholarships.

"I'll have to wait and see on that," Summitt said.

FRIDAY'S SESSION: Overall, Pat Summitt was pleased with Friday's full-team workout session.

"I thought we did a good job," said Summitt, though she still wants to see turnovers trimmed and had players sprinting for missed box-outs and doing push-ups for miscues with the ball.

The two freshmen, Lauren Avant and Meighan Simmons, have impressed with their ability to pick up the terminology and drills. If they're fatigued by the two-hour full-team session, they're not showing it on the court.

"I think Meighan, in particular, is quick and athletic," Summitt said. "She looks frail, but she gets the job done. Lauren just needs a lot of repetition with her shot. Both have a pretty good basketball IQ."

With the announcement that Faith Dupree would transfer, the ability of Taber Spani and Alicia Manning to play in the high post becomes more important for Tennessee. Spani is coming back from a serious foot injury but has held up well in the preseason.

"A healthy Taber goes a long way," Summitt said.

Vicki Baugh, who is probably at about 75 percent in terms of speed and conditioning after missing 18 months to recover from two ACL surgeries, has been particularly impressive on both ends of the floor, especially her interior defense. She went down once Friday but popped back up with a smile on her face.

"You can't help but watch her (and flinch when she falls)," Summitt said. "She's tough."

The presence of Baugh at practice also underscores how much she was missed the past two seasons.

"We struggled," Summitt said. "A lot of our struggles were because she was not in uniform."

The team will get Saturday off and then Summitt will take advantage of a new NCAA rule that allows official practices to start 40 days before a team's first official game. In Tennessee's case that would be Sunday, Oct. 3. Summitt welcomed the early start but said the sessions would be staggered since conditioning with Heather Mason is also intense in preseason.

"We can get back on the court and go to work," Summitt said. "We've got a lot of teaching to do."

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