Drive. Determination. Dupree. Tough-as-nails Josh Dupree embodied the fighting spirit of Fayette County High, shaking off doubters to push his team to one of the finest years in the history of a storied program, and along the way he carved out a path forward for himself.
A four-year varsity player and a three-year starter for the Tiger basketball team, he saved his best for last on the hard court. Dupree was the heart of a hard-nosed squad that finished as region runner-up and regrouped to win four playoff games, including three on the road, to reach the state championship game for the first time since 2008.
“He was always the key. He was our glue guy. He was our captain,” said head coach Andre Flynn. “He was a very unselfish player. He could’ve scored more, but he focused on getting everyone involved. He wanted to do what was best for the team.”
The Tigers suffered a controversial loss to Buford in the title game, but it couldn’t diminish a tremendous campaign for Dupree. He was a quiet assassin who let his actions do the talking.
“He’s not one of those guys that talks a lot. He’s not a rah-rah guy. He’s quiet, and he leads by how he plays,” said Flynn. “Because he worked so hard, the team looked up to him, and when he said something, they responded.”
One of the best on-ball defenders in the state, he was honored as the All-County Defensive Player of the Year, filling up the stat sheet nightly averaging 9.9 points, 5.6 assists, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.2 steals a game.
“He could guard any position, one through five. He would take it as a challenge,” said Flynn. “Whoever was hot on the other team, he would make it hard for them. He just loved the challenge.”
His contributions caught the attention of several colleges, but Catawba College scored the commitment of their diamond in the rough.
“It feels unreal,” Dupree said at his signing ceremony in May. “I’ve worked for this for four years. It’s a dream come true.”
All the hard work paid off, culminating in a signing day that was a great celebration and moment to exhale.
“This day has been a long time coming,” said his mother, LaShandra. “It’s a huge weight off.”
The Division II school in Salisbury, North Carolina made a lasting impression on Dupree.
“When I went to visit, the culture, the people, everything, it just felt right,” he said. “It felt like home.”
LaShandra could tell her son had found his spot.
“Kids get caught up in D-1, but this school had been recruiting Josh for a year., and he wanted to wait it out. When we went to visit, the people were wonderful, the campus was wonderful. It just clicked,” she remembered. “When we were coming home, Josh asked how it felt, and I said, ‘There’s no words. There are no words to describe how I feel right now. I am so, so proud of you.’”
The Catawba commitment was years in the making.
“Man, it’s amazing. It’s been a long journey,” said his dad, Sean.
Josh started playing team basketball at 4 years old, but he picked up the ball on his own even earlier. Sean remembered a time when he was coaching Josh’s older sisters and he was just 3 years old at the time.
“I was working with all the kids on the basketball court, and I look over at him and he found a basketball and some cones and he started doing his own little drills,” said Sean. “He was imitating what we were doing on the court. Ever since then, it’s been non-stop. You couldn’t keep him out of the gym. He just loved the game.”
Sean knew his son had the drive to be special very early on, with a particular memory from when he was just six years old still crystal clear.
“He was very intense. He got a fast break and he came down and he tried to dunk it at 6 years old,” Sean said. “His mentality at that age was already relentless. He just had to be successful. He wanted to do whatever it took to win.”
Dupree is an all-around talent, too. His dad said that Josh’s best sport was football, but concussions forced him to step away from the gridiron early. Instead, his second sport became track and field, where he was a key contributor on one of the state’s best programs. As a senior, he placed second in the region in the 400 meter dash and was part of the runner-up 4×100 and 4×400 meter relay teams. That advanced him to sectionals, where he won the 400 meter and the relay teams took third in both races. Qualifying for state in all three, his top placements were sixth in both the 400 meter and the 4×400.
Catawba will soon see they’ve uncovered a gem. Fayette County knows Josh Dupree will work until he’s a diamond.
“I’ve been blessed to coach him for four years,” said Flynn. “He’s one of those kids who is self-made. He just wants to be great.”
No matter how hard the journey, Dupree will make it to the top.