Dexter Upshaw ’06 has a very practical approach to defense.
Play with heart, energy and a hand in your man’s face.
“As long as they can’t see, they can’t make a basket,” Upshaw said.
At times during the Bulldogs’ 58-54 win over Dartmouth Saturday, the 6’7″ forward blindfolded his man, holding a hand in front of his Big Green opponents’ eyes.
“The refs told me to be careful not to punch any of the guys,” the soft-spoken Upshaw said with a smile. “I don’t try to get in anyone’s face. That’s just how I play. I try to put pressure on people. When you put pressure on people, it makes them go to plan B. I try to talk, be vocal and give a lot of energy.”
In addition to his in-the-face defensive pressure, Upshaw scored 11 points in just 10 minutes. Three of those points came on a trifecta to beat the buzzer at the end of the first half.
“Dexter was unbelievable,” Eli captain Matt Minoff ’04 said. “He’s been waiting a whole season to get this chance and he took full advantage of it.”
Upshaw’s performance Saturday did not come as a surprise to his teammates or coaches. He has earned a reputation as one of the hardest workers in practice, but hard work has not always translated into playing time.
In the 12 other games he has played in this season, he has averaged just 4.9 minutes and 1.3 points. Before Saturday, his career best in points was eight points in a Jan. 11, 2003, game versus Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
“The effort Dexter gave tonight is the effort he gives all the time,” Jones said. “That is how he is everyday in practice. If we had 15 guys with as much energy as Dexter, I’d say we’d be hard pressed to lose a game.”
Upshaw was a highly touted recruit, posting 22 points and 12 rebounds per game as a senior at Oak Ridge High School in Spring, Texas. Why he has not seen more minutes since arriving at Yale has had little to do with his own play. His cause has been hurt by the Bulldogs’ depth in the post in recent years. This season, with Princeton transfer Dominick Martin ’05 and Justin Simon ’04, the lineup has been especially crowded.
“Dominick is a guy that shoots 60 percent from the floor,” Jones said. “Justin plays hard. He’s a lot like Dexter. He works as hard as he can. He doesn’t always have the results, but he gives a lot of effort. The difference is that Justin is a senior and Dexter is a sophomore.”
Simon’s graduation this May leaves Upshaw as the heir-apparent to the back-up center role. Jones said Upshaw will compete with redshirt junior Josh Hill ’05 and incoming freshman, 6’11″ Matt Kyle, among others, for floor time next season.
Whether or not Upshaw plays more in the 2004-2005 campaign, however, will not change his mentality.
“I can’t tell you how many points I’m going to score or how many rebounds I’m going to get,” Upshaw said. “I can tell you I’m going work as hard as I can.”