Thursday, December 14, 2017
Sports

Teddy Dupay has life in order, helping kids through basketball

TAMPA — His glory years vacated Gainesville four months before Steve Spurrier did. Teddy Dupay, Gators 3-point shooter extraordinaire, had orchestrated his own collapse, adding sensationalism and smolder to the rubble in ensuing years.

Conviction here, cannabis promotion there. Assorted hitches in basketball's bush leagues. His hair grew out, as did his waistline. He became a punch line, and a pariah.

"I lost my career making half a million bucks a year," Dupay said. "Career gone, nobody will hire me. I can't work."

Yet on this sweltering south Tampa afternoon, that chapter of Dupay's 36-year-old life seems a remote roundabout to his current landing spot. The trim, single dad with the sparkle in his eyes and short, neatly coiffed hair resembles Teddy Ballgame, circa 2000.

"I'm in heaven," says the Tampa resident.

The celestial address is 4002 S Coolidge Ave., site of the old Interbay Boys & Girls Club. It's now home to the Prep of South Tampa, a non-profit outfit aimed at family and youth enrichment through sports and education. In its renovated gym, Dupay coaches dozens — sometimes hundreds — of kids each week at his self-named basketball academy.

"That's my life, that's who I am," Dupay says. "I love coaching."

At 170 pounds, roughly 15 fewer than his college playing weight, Dupay looks as if he could hoist treys for hours on end. Today, he'll try. In an Ybor City gym devoid of air conditioning, Dupay will attempt to break the Guinness world record for 3-pointers in various time spans including the 24-hour mark (10,381).

Proceeds (donations, per-shot pledges) benefit two local non-profit organizations aimed at teaching and encouraging economically disadvantaged kids. Dupay's 12-year-old daughter, Hannah, will be there. For at least part of the attempt, so will WWE wrestler Titus O'Neil, known in a previous life as Gators defensive lineman Thaddeus Bullard. Former Buc Simeon Rice and former Storm owner Bob Gries also have signed on as "celebrity witnesses."

Inevitable question is, what are they witnessing? A truly transformed individual or the latest incarnation of Teddy dupe? Can a guy whose baggage exceeds his body weight be trusted?

"Absolutely," O'Neil said.

"His whole outlook on life is completely different. He cherishes his talents, but more importantly he cherishes his purpose. And he's out right now trying to live that purpose. He's obviously a person that learned from his mistakes, and I'm proud to call him a friend."

•••

More than a decade before Ole Miss' Marshall Henderson antagonized SEC audiences with clutch baskets and crude gestures, Edward Raymond Dupay III was the one player opposing fans loved to hate. Arguably 5 feet 10 in high tops, he was a streak-shooting, loose-ball-diving, charge-taking dervish.

UCF coach Donnie Jones, a former Gators assistant, said Dupay's charisma was "at a different level."

"I used to work hard to make Duke fans or Michigan State fans mad at me," Dupay said. "I was completely out of whack."

He arrived in Gainesville in 1998 as the reigning Florida Mr. Basketball, having committed to then-unproven Gators coach Billy Donovan as a sophomore at Cape Coral Mariner High. His 3,744 career points remain a state high school record. Arguably the greatest long-range marksman in Florida prep history, he averaged 41.5 points a game as a senior.

One night, he dropped 70 in three quarters. In the semifinals of the 1997 Hooters Holiday Tournament in St. Petersburg, he rallied his team from a double-digit deficit against Shaker Heights (Ohio) with 29 points — in the last five minutes.

At UF, his antagonistic measures (a wink here, blown kiss there) were subtle. His competitive zeal wasn't. Never was it more glaring than the night of Jan. 30, 2001, when No. 8 Tennessee came to the O'Connell Center.

Only 20 days before, Dupay had what he deemed "serious surgery" to remove bone fragments from his spinal fluid. The condition initially triggered knee pain so overwhelming, Dupay would exit practice in tears. Doctors later told him a further delay in surgery could have resulted in the loss of the leg.

Yet even more excruciating was watching his injury-besieged team — down to seven scholarship players at one point — trudge through a 1-3 start in SEC play.

"So we started talking about, 'Could you come back?' " Dupay recalled. "I'm like, 'Of course, I feel 100 percent. I could play today.' "

No sooner than he entered (with 12:32 to play in the first half), Dupay took a charge from 260-pound center Charles Hathaway. By night's end, he had collected 10 points, two assists and two steals in 15 minutes as the Gators upset the Vols, 81-67.

"He was hurting," Jones said. "No one really expected that coming. And of course, the first thing the guy does is take a charge. That's just who he is."

Seven months later, his career — and dream of ultimately replacing Donovan as Gators coach — was over.

On Sept. 7, 2001, he was ruled ineligible for his senior year after a University Police Department probe into gambling. Dupay never was criminally charged, but UPD documents contained statements from UF students alleging Dupay asked them to place bets for him on Gators games while he still was playing.

Six days after his dismissal, he was named as an uncharged co-defendant in a criminal complaint alleging he provided inside information on Gators games to a bet-placing roommate.

"Self-inflicted in college," Dupay says of the gambling probe. "I was just being a knucklehead."

He transitioned to vagabond. Dupay joined a travel team that competed in college exhibition games. He logged time in the ABA, CBA, even South America, where he met Hannah's mom. He shined for a CBA team in Rockford, Ill., and seemed on the precipice of no worse than a 10-day NBA contract when he blew out his knee.

Four surgeries followed, as did a series of jobs and, finally, a jail cell.

In June 2008, Dupay was arrested in Utah on felony charges of rape, aggravated kidnapping and sexual assault of his then-girlfriend. The woman originally alleged Dupay raped her after repeatedly hitting and kicking her. Medical exams showed bruises and scratches on her upper torso and a swollen left eye, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Dupay agreed to a plea bargain, pleading guilty to aggravated assault and two misdemeanors — including intoxication — that resulted in a sentence including 30 days in jail, $800 in fines and 100 hours of community service.

Today, he acknowledges wrongdoing, but not to the extent alleged in the initial charges. He said he signed his plea bargain believing all the charges would be reduced to misdemeanors. Various Utah media outlets reported the victim didn't cooperate with prosecutors, and told the judge in court Dupay shouldn't go to jail.

"Yes, I was way wrong, can't be any more wrong," he said. "Nothing about my actions is acceptable, explainable. I'm ashamed of myself for what did happen. But for the record, that did not happen."

Unhirable and broke at that point, Dupay launched a website endorsing the legalization of marijuana, later characterized by some as a glorified pyramid scheme. He moved back to Florida, became a de facto pitchman for a health and fitness company, worked in the real-estate business.

None provided fulfillment, spiritually or monetarily.

•••

"I grew up, went to Catholic school, always believed in God but I never really made that the ultimate No. 1," he said. "Just me being young, my perception of everything was wrong. It was all about me, my game, my career, proving everybody wrong, taking Florida to the top."

Coaching remained a passion, but also a pipe dream; Dupay knew his baggage would keep him from landing any kind of college gig any time soon. But he had resumed communicating with Donovan, who told him he could forge a legacy by moving the game forward at the youth level.

He agreed to coach a team of third- and fourth-grade girls at Tampa's Central City YMCA. The gratification it produced was the greatest he had felt in years. Yet one glaring problem remained.

"I had zero money," he said. "Again, I'm just saying to myself, 'I'm doing God's work, this is what he wants me to do, it makes me very happy and fulfilled. I'm making a big difference in these kids' lives. But here I am, I don't have any money. What am I gonna do?' "

A conversation with his grandmother helped steer him toward the idea of a hoops academy. He tutored his first student last summer on an outdoor court at Christ the King Catholic Church in Tampa. A year later, his new calling consumes him.

He'll train your kid, lecture at your camp, work with your guards. He'll come speak to your team, weaving the wayward juncture of his life into a cautionary tale.

"I had Teddy come last summer and connect with my team, speak to my team," Jones said. "I think he knows his true talent is being able to impact people and kids. He's an over-achiever and I could go on and on."

The world record idea was spawned when he saw a man on the Today show set Guinness' global mark for pull-ups. When someone suggested he make a fundraising event out of his pursuit, he began seeking a charity.

An acquaintance hooked him up with Academy Prep Center head Lincoln Tamayo, whose non-profit schools (in Tampa and St. Petersburg) use a stern curriculum and long school days to educate economically disadvantaged middle school students.

Proceeds from Dupay's pursuits will benefit Academy Prep and the Dream Center, an inner-city satellite ministry of Grace Family Church. His world record try will be staged in the Dream Center gym.

"People come to us with ideas all the time, but then when you follow up with them, they won't return calls," said Tamayo, who earned a law degree from UF. "That is just not even remotely the case with Teddy. We talk to each other all the time. He really is committed to this."

Dupay, who insists his only vice these days is blueberry bagels, gets the cynicism. The sordid headlines and heinous allegations can't be drained like 3-pointers.

In a sense, the kid once deemed too short and too slow for major college basketball is being forced to prove himself all over again.

"I'm real open with the kids," he said. "They ask me about all kinds of stuff and I just tell them the truth. Kids don't judge, they don't care. They want to know that you care about them."

In time, perhaps the old reputation will dissipate and true character will flourish. Then, maybe a gig on the Gators' staff will come to fruition after all. That would be one for the books.

For now, he'll start with Guinness'.

"From the very first minute, there's just something in Teddy's spirit that just really caught me," Tamayo said. "And I could just feel the sense that he's really come to a point in his life where he believes that a life without being in service to others isn't a life worth living. And I can really, really feel that in him."

Contact Joey Knight at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

     
       
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