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Mystics All-Star Cites Depression For Her Absence

Holdsclaw said yesterday that, with the help of a psychiatrist, she has traced the root of her depression to the death of her grandmother a year ago. June Holdsclaw raised Chamique and her younger brother on a nurse's salary in Astoria. Chamique relied heavily on her grandmother for emotional support and was devastated when she died suddenly of a stroke. At the time, Holdsclaw suppressed her grief, playing a game for the Mystics just days after the funeral.

When Holdsclaw suffered a second loss this May, this time of her grandfather, her family turned to her for solace. She was always someone "who could fix everything," she said. But Holdsclaw was buckling. By July she couldn't get out of bed. "I couldn't move, couldn't talk," she said. "I was like, what is going on?"

The Mystics' Chamique Holdsclaw says her bout with depression has her considering retirement. (Jonathan Newton - The Washington Post)

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Holdsclaw stayed home while the Mystics traveled to Charlotte for a game on July 24. She rejoined the team four days later for a game against Detroit, hoping the episode was temporary. But she immediately suffered another emotional decline. This time, she followed the advice of close friends and Babby and consulted a therapist. Over the next few weeks, Holdsclaw said she realized that she was in no condition to deal with her responsibilities.

"I just didn't want to be Chamique," she said, "People look at me, even my family and friends, in an almost supernatural way. I just wanted to be a regular person."

Holdsclaw told Babby she didn't want to return to the team. "They don't have to pay me," she told him. Holdsclaw and Babby informed Summitt and Washington Sports and Entertainment President Susan O'Malley, that their star player would not be back. They also requested confidentiality. They found the Mystics "understanding and remarkably supportive," Babby said.

Summitt and O'Malley even declined to tell head coach Michael Adams why Holdsclaw was absent. "We just wanted to work with her," O'Malley says. "Chamique is a very private person who was very worried about her confidentiality and that's why we kept the circle very small."

When the season ended in the first round of the playoffs, Holdsclaw went to stay with an old friend in the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn to be closer to her family. She returned to the old Boys and Girls Club in Astoria where she had learned to play and joined pickup games.

Holdsclaw recently called Babby and said she wanted to explore playing overseas, which most WNBA players do in the offseason to hone their games and make extra money. Holdsclaw said it's an experiment to see if she can apply what she's learned: not to internalize problems. "It's time to take the test and see," she said. "I know I love the game.

"I've been through a lot and I just want to play basketball."

Staff writer Greg Sandoval contributed to this report.

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