It's rare that a graduate of Duke, the hated rival of the hometown Maryland Terrapins, becomes a fan favorite at Verizon Center. In the case of Washington Mystics forward Monique "Mo" Currie, Mystics fans seem all too happy to make an exception.
A native of Washington, D.C., Currie is now the longest-tenured member of the Mystics and a team captain this season. Her role with the team has evolved during her eight-plus seasons with Washington. What hasn't changed is Currie's ability to lead, to teach and to make her teammates better.
"One of the things I admire about Mo is she got off to a slow start and struggled offensively, and yet it hasn't changed her demeanor about how hard she practices," Mystics coach Mike Thibault said. "I think that's been a great example for the young players, to see a veteran who by her own admission wasn't shooting well, but is still putting in the work every day and encouraging people."
Currie is no stranger to overcoming adversity and battling back. Following a stellar 2010 season, during which she was named as a replacement player on the WNBA All-Star team, Currie suffered an ACL tear while playing in Turkey during the offseason, and missed all but the final four games of the 2011 season. She returned with a vengeance, playing solid minutes and making major contributions on the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.
Now in her ninth WNBA season, Currie reflected on what she's learned, and what she's able to teach the young players as the Mystics' organization begins to rebuild.
"[I'm teaching them] just to be consistent and work hard," Currie said. "You've got to be smart in this league, because we're playing against very smart players, very athletic players, so you can't make some of the same decisions you made when you were in college. But it takes some time to learn. You don't have a lot of time, but our young people have really caught on quickly."
Currie was drafted by the Charlotte Sting with the third overall pick of the 2006 WNBA Draft and was named to the All-Rookie team her only season in Charlotte, as the team folded Jan. 3, 2007. She was the No. 1 pick of the Dispersal Draft by the Chicago Sky Jan. 8, 2007, and played two games in the Windy City before being traded to Washington.
"I think I've played many different roles here," Currie said. "I've started. I've come off the bench. I've played a lot of minutes. I played [few] minutes. I've been a captain. I've not been a captain. I think this year, my role is changing, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, because we have a lot of capable players. Coach [Thibault] plays a lot of people, so my minutes have gone down, so I've just taken a role of being a leader, still being a captain here, just doing whatever I can to help us win."
Through the first 11 games of the 2014 season, Currie is averaging 6.8 points and 3.8 rebounds during 19.0 minutes per game. But like most leaders, Currie brings more than stats to the Mystics.
"Being a leader comes with a lot of responsibility," Washington point guard Ivory Latta said. "You've got to put it on your shoulders and go with it. Mo's teaching [the young players] to be patient, do the little things. If your teammate falls down, everybody run over there and get them up, not just one or two people. That's what we need, somebody like her. Mo is an excellent teammate and a good person off the court. I'm blessed to have her as a teammate."