Senior guard Alex Dupree and the Prairie View Spartans are looking to extend their postseason run in the MAIS Class 2A State Tournament.
Prairie View senior guard Alex Dupree has one regret as he reflects on his high school basketball career.
"I wish I would have played all the way through," Dupree said. "I didn't get interested in basketball until I was older."
Dupree played wide receiver for the Spartans' JV football team from grades 7-9 but changed sports practically overnight as a sophomore.
"I just started shooting around, and realized I liked basketball," Dupree said. "I couldn't stop. My sophomore year, I used to dribble every day for an hour, and then I would work on my shot."
Dupree's older brother, Hayden, also got off to a late start. Ironically, first-year Prairie View coach David Patrick also coached Hayden at Beekman.
"Hayden had never played until I pulled him out of P.E. class his junior year," Patrick said. "It was kind of unusual. Although neither one of them had played at the school, they had both played a lot of basketball in their church gym. (The Dupree's had access to the gym at Central Missionary Baptist Church where their father, Britt Dupree, is pastor)."
Dupree caught on to the game quickly, moving into the starting lineup last season.
"The biggest improvement I have made has probably been my dribbling. Plus, I have grown quite a bit," the 5-10 Dupree said.
Upon returning from the public school system and returning to Prairie View for his second stint as head coach, Patrick noticed Dupree's willingness to learn during the early workouts.
"Like all the other seniors, I wish I could have been with them all summer," Patrick said. "I threw an awful lot at them in a short period of time. Alex always had a positive attitude, and wasn't afraid to ask questions. He's one of those kids that any time you ask him to be here, he's here."
With Prairie View advancing to the football semifinals, the Spartans got off to a late start on the hardwood.
"Alex always had a positive attitude, and tried to put a positive spin on everything, especially early in the year when we were trying to get on our feet after a long football season," Patrick recalled. "Alex was one of four kids that didn't play football."
Dupree's senior season has turned out to been a memorable one. Besides winning the MAIS District 5-2A championship, the Spartans have advanced to the State Tournament for the first time since 2006.
"Our first goal was to win the district championship," Dupree said.
Advancing to the State Tournament wasn't even on the Spartans' radar until the past couple of weeks.
"I was attending Morehouse Magnet in '06," said Dupree, who has been at Prairie View since the fourth grade. "I hadn't really thought about how long it had been since Prairie View was in the State Tournament. I don't think any of us had, really."
Prairie View will play Marshall on Wednesday at 5:15 p.m. in the first round of the State Tournament in Brookhaven, Mississippi.
"Coach says Marshall is not that big, but they are a good team," Dupree said. "It'll be a tough game, but I know we can do it."
Under the MAIS Tournament format, Wednesday's winner is assured of playing at least three more games (two in the State Tournament, one at Overall). For the losing team, it's one and done.
Dupree and the Spartans have already played one single elimination game, defeating Ben's Ford Christian 51-42 in the South State Tournament quarterfinals.
"The single elimination games are more pressure," Dupree said. "Everybody on the team knows if we lose, we'll be done with our season."
For Dupree and his senior classmates — Tanner Caldwell, Austin Harper, Alex Loizou, Kentrell Spencer and Jacob Walker — it could be their final game. Dupree, of course, would prefer the end to come later rather than sooner.
"Now that we have made it this far, we are going to try to go all the way," Dupree said.
For the Spartans to make a run in the State Tournament, Dupree says they will have to upgrade in certain areas.
"We need to shoot better and we need to pass the ball better, definitely," Dupree said. "We need to make better passes and we need to make more passes."
Dupree says the key to the Spartans' improvement over the course of the season has been team chemistry.
"Some of us are new," Dupree said. "It's not like we have all been playing together since fourth grade. At the start of the year, we didn't have any chemistry. From our first game to where we are now, our chemistry is so much better. It's kind of surprised me, actually."
Looking back, Dupree is surprised to be in the position he's in now.
"We have gone from a losing season last year to making the State Tournament. This year has been a lot better," he said with a smile.
When his playing days are over, Dupree already knows what he is going to miss the most.
"I'm going to miss running out of the locker room, and seeing the fans," Dupree said. "I'm really going to miss that."
Dupree hopes to experience the pregame roar of the crowd at least four more times.