By Mel Greenberg
PHILADELPHIA - In case you haven't had much chance to catch up with former Temple star Candice Dupree since her graduation in 2006, she'll be on display Tuesday night when her Chicago Sky visits the Los Angeles Sparks (10 p.m., edt, ESPN2).
Both teams are fighting to stay in the playoff hunt in their respective divisions with Los Angeles beginning to live up to preseason expectations.
Dupree's appearance will be another example of why the draft class of 2006 will be one of the most notable in the WNBA's 13-year history.
To review the top of the crop, Minnesota took Seimone Augustus out of LSU, followed by Phoenix's selection of former Rutgers star Cappie Pondexter, followed by former Charlotte taking Monique Currie out of Duke, followed by San Antonio taking Baylor's Sophie Young, followed by Los Angeles using an acquisition pick to take Lisa Willias, and then the new Chicago Sky picked Dupree.
Augustus has had some nagging injuries, including this season, but she went on to make the Olympic team with Pondexter, who paired with the Mercury's Diana Taurasi, the former UConn star and Big East rival, to win the 2007 title. Young was in the finals last year. Dupree has had yet to make the playoffs, but she has been one of the statistical leaders of her class.
The native of Florida, who led Temple to three straight Atlantic 10 titles, has been an All-Star three times, this season as a starter. According to WNBA stats submitted last week, Dupree leads her draft classmates in rebounds and ranks fourth in points scored.
Dupree's entry into the league was also noteworthy when she got to play against her college coach Dawn Staley, who was in the last go-round playing for the former Houston team. The two, though at different positions, went at it in the All-Star game that season in New York.
Dupree's three-plus year total shows more than 1,900 career points and over 900 rebounds in helping the Sky to become a playoff contender this season. She is 12th in the league in scoring and sixth in rebounding.
The league says the Class of 2006 has achieved more milestones and accolades in their first four years than any class since 2001. When Young and Dupree break the 2,000 point barrier, they'll join Pondexter and Augustus, who already have passed the mark, to make the class the first since 1999 to four 2,000-point scorers.
Of course, that year some of the newcomers weren't exactly new with the likes of Katie Smith coming on the refugee boats from the former American Basketball League, which had collapsed in bankruptcy in December 1998.
Curiously, since the Guru posted a note last week about the normal upper echelon reaching hard times, Detroit, Los Angeles, and New York have drawn closer to the playoff contenders, while Sacramento has won a bit.
So, get this: Sacramento's next win will mark only the second time and first since 2001 that the bottom teams in each division reach double-digit wins. New York posted win No. 11 Sunday night beating fading Minnesota.
The Lynx situation bears watching in that new coach Jen Gillom is considered one of the frontrunners in a crowded group to land a spot on Olympic coach Geno Auriemma's staff.
In 2001, there were 16 teams in the league and the schedule of the regular season was two less at 32.
Keep those seatbelts fastened the rest of the way because it is going to be a bumpy ride until the postseason crowd is determined.