| ||Jeff Taylor has been covering European basketball since 1997, when he first worked on the television program SLAM. He has been a basketball writer and broadcaster since that time, traveling the continent and covering the game in depth for FIBA Europe since its launch in 2003. |
There were words of wisdom uttered by Candice Dupree this week at the EuroLeague Women All-Star Game in Gdynia, Poland.
It was a few hours before the Good Angels Kosice forward and her Rest of the World teammates ran onto the floor to entertain the crowd with a game against Europe's all-stars.
Dupree, who played college basketball at Temple University for USA great Dawn Staley, and now competes in Europe and in the WNBA, said: "The last four years playing overseas is probably the best experience I've ever had."
If that's not a compliment to European basketball, then I don't know what is.
The seasons are long and hard, and players are far away from the comforts of home.
Family and friends are an ocean away, as are their favorite drive-through windows.
Dupree and all the players log plenty of miles in buses and on planes to compete in domestic leagues and in Europe.
There are lots of floor burns in practice.
But for Dupree, it's all worth it.
"I think over here, you have more of an opportunity to experiment on the court, expand your game," she said.
"We (Americans) spend seven months out of the year over here, so it's pretty much where we get a lot of our work in - expanding your range, learning to put the ball on the floor, ball-handling skills, stuff like that.
"If you don't work on it over here, it's not going to make you a better player come the WNBA season."
It's players like Dupree that make the EuroLeague Women what it is, and that's one of the finest basketball competitions in the world.
No one will dispute that after the kind of year she has had in Europe.
The 25-year-old averaged 18.9 points and 11 rebounds for the Slovakian club.
More important, the team won game after game.
Dupree didn't expect this year to go as well as it did, especially after Kosice's 0-3 start in Europe.
The team made it to the EuroLeague Women Quarter-Finals, though.
She didn't panic.
It helped that Kosice, after the first two defeats, went out and signed her fellow American Angel McCoughtry and German Linda Frohlich.
Most important was having the right mindset.
That, according to Kosice coach Stefan Svitek, is something McCoughtry and Dupree possess.
"They both are great players playing for the US national team," Svitek said.
"We always are talking about the team and team success but they mean a lot for us.
"They are not only excellent players, but also great personalities."
Dupree did her homework on Kosice before joining.
"I heard a lot of good things about the club before going there," she said.
"I didn't really know what to expect, though, but the coach ended up being a great guy - a great coach.
"The teammates were great. I also play with Angel McCoughtry.
"We ended up just having a good time."
It's been a win-win situation for both Dupree and Kosice.
"Slovak players can learn a lot from them and their game, and by the way, we have lot of fun together," Svitek said.
The fans have now twice voted Dupree into the All-Star Game.
She represented Wisla Can-Pack Krakow last year when the event was staged in Paris.
"It's an honor," she said.
"I love the fact that people acknowledge I'm a good player and I have an opportunity to come here and play with some of the best Europeans in the world and the best Rest of the World players."
Dupree is humble, yet certain that she has won the respect of fans, players and coaches in Europe.
At least that's what the all-star voting suggests.
"I think so," she said, before laughing and adding "or either my mother's voting all the time."