Dupree Fletcher counts his blessings each and every day.“By the grace of God I turned my life around,” Fletcher said.
He knows, however, his life could have turned out quite differently if he didn’t change.
He knows his life has been a struggle at times.
And he knows his life has taken more detours than he ever anticipated.
But he doesn’t hide from his past.
“The road I was on was a disaster,” Fletcher said.
The senior guard has regrets about events that occurred after graduating from Milwaukee Rufus King High School in 2004, and he’ll be the first one to say he made mistakes.
But after six long years of trying to find a place called home, Saturday’s Senior Night is a day he will cherish for sometime.
“It means a lot to me, because all the stuff I went through, and I’m still here playing basketball,” said Fletcher, who will be one of three players honored against UW-Superior during the men’s basketball team’s regular season finale.
Flashback to 2004 and playing basketball at UW-Whitewater was not an option for Fletcher.
He was coming off his second consecutive state championship and was named the Associated Press Wisconsin Player of the Year.
As a result, he was awarded a Division I scholarship to Evansville, Ind., where he looked to have a successful four-year career and pick up right where he left off at King.
That, however, did not happen.
After participating in only three games, Fletcher was dismissed from Evansville for stealing electronic equipment from campus dorm rooms along with two of his teammates during the Thanksgiving break.
“It was just the wrong crowd,” Fletcher said. “[I did] stupid things. If you don’t learn from the stupid things, then stupid things will continue to happen.”
While looking to get a fresh start at Garden City Community College (Kan.) in 2006, Fletcher suffered another setback.
After just one season, he was kicked off the team after being arrested on allegations of criminal trespass and disorderly conduct.
“That incident it was more troubles having a young family,” Fletcher said. “I was there also with my one son (Dupree Jr.) at the time and [my girlfriend] was pregnant with my second at the time. It made it tough going to school out there so many miles away.” When asked what his biggest fears were after his second run-in with the law, Fletcher admitted he had many.
“That I won’t be able to finish school,” Fletcher said. “[And] that I won’t get to play basketball again.”
However, he was given another chance at Dillard University, an NAIA University located in New Orleans.
But after one year, he left the school in 2007 due to academic issues and had since been devoting his time to raising his two sons in Milwaukee.
Then, last semester there was talk Fletcher, now 24 years old, was coming to UW-Whitewater.
Senior center Dustin Mitchell didn’t know what to think about the situation.
“I really wasn’t too sure if I should commit to believing it, because he was supposed to come here the past few years, so I really wasn’t sure,” Mitchell said. “Once he was here for preseason it was pretty exciting [and] surprising.”
Head coach Pat Miller said he was frank with Fletcher when discussing all options.
“Anytime you bring in a guy for a semester it’s difficult, and I was not going to bring him in for a semester solely for basketball purposes,” Miller said. “I was very adamant that I wanted him to be here because he wanted to be in school; that he wants to get his degree.”
That’s Fletcher’s objective too.
“I want to graduate,” he said when asked what his main priority was for coming to UW-Whitewater.
He also wants to help the Warhawks complete the finishing touches on a WIAC championship this week.
Since becoming eligible on Dec. 22, Fletcher has made his presence felt.
He scored a team-high 21 points on 10-of-10 shooting from the free-throw line in his first game as a Warhawk.
While he’s seventh on the team in minutes played, Fletcher is second in scoring for the ’Hawks at 12.6 points per game and shoots a team-high 87 percent from the free-throw line.
Moreover, Fletcher enters tonight’s road contest against UW-Oshkosh after scoring a career-high 27 points in the team’s 81-69 win over UW-Eau Claire last Saturday.
Former UW-Whitewater All-American Matt Goodwin, who played alongside Fletcher in high school, spoke highly of his friend of more than 15 years.
“I feel he can be the best player to ever put on a Whitewater uniform if the coaches let him have the freedom,” said Goodwin, who also competed opposite of Fletcher when the two were in community college. “He should be at the highest level. He’s one of the best players I’ve played with.”
Mitchell added the ’Hawks will need Fletcher to continue his hot hand as the team enters the WIAC tournament next week.
“He definitely adds to our arsenal,” said Mitchell, who along with Mike Bendall will join Fletcher for Senior Night.
While Miller knew Fletcher’s talent has never gone away, he said Fletcher needed more guidance.
Fletcher also wants to make sure his family, including his brother, an all-state basketball player at Wisconsin Lutheran High School, who has been recruited by Loyola (Ill.) next season, learns from his experiences.
“I want my family to be successful,” Fletcher said. “ I’m a father. I got people looking up to me now. My focus is that [my brother] doesn’t travel down that path.”
But it’s a path that has taught Fletcher to never take anything for granted.
“You better enjoy life,” Fletcher said. “You never know [the] obstacles. I’m just blessed that I’m getting this chance.”