By Katie Carrera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 13, 2010; D02
Late in the Washington Mystics' scrimmage Tuesday night, Monique Currie swatted the ball away from a member of the Polish National team at midcourt, turned on a dime and raced the other way for an easy layup. Less than a minute later fellow wing Marissa Coleman set up for a long-range three-pointer in her old gym at St. John's College High in Northwest.
As has been the case throughout much of this preseason, each time Currie or Coleman took the floor, their presence was hard to ignore. Whether it was Currie tipping her opponent's shot so it fell well short of the basket or Coleman slamming a block into the backboard, both demonstrated what may be a renaissance at small forward for the Mystics this season.
With playmaker Alana Beard out for the season and just 10 healthy players on the active roster, Currie and Coleman said they relish the chance to become dependable options.
"This season has presented a great opportunity for Mo and I especially," said Coleman, who was presented with a ball commemorating her high school career as the leading scorer (2,056 points) at St. John's during a break in the scrimmage, which Washington won, 71-44. "I think you're starting to see a lot of the things we can do offensively and defensively with AB out. Just in having a different mind-set and being more aggressive out there and to know that we're going to step it up on both ends of the court in order for the team to be successful."
Coleman and Currie played more than 20 minutes in each of Washington's preseason games against New York and Atlanta. They combined for 48 points and 16 rebounds in the contests. While the playing time was geared toward developing chemistry, it also allowed both players to experiment with their newfound roles and the shifting priorities of opposing defenses that no longer have Beard to key on.
Last season wasn't easy for either of the Mystics' primary small forwards. After a quick start in her rookie year, Coleman suffered the first major injury of her basketball career when a high-ankle sprain forced her to miss six games. She didn't completely regain her confidence until she worked out in the offseason, and now the swagger that was so often apparent during her days at Maryland has returned.
"It really is about letting go and just having fun playing basketball again," Coleman said. "I've moved on from last season and who knows where this one will lead."
For Currie, 2009 marked another year of searching for consistency. Her 8.2 points per game average was the lowest of her career, but she often showed improved defensive play, especially as the Mystics pushed into the postseason. She enters her fifth WNBA season hoping to make that well-rounded effort a regular occurrence.
"The consistency is something that comes up every year for me. Being capable of whatever and actually executing that are different things," Currie said. "So for me, I just try to focus on the task at hand in every individual game and do everything I can in that moment. I just want to go to work. We lose a lot without Alana Beard and there's definitely an opportunity for a few of us to step in there and pick up where she left off."
Mystics notes: Washington traded guard Nikki Blue to the New York Liberty for rookie guard Ashley Houts, the team announced Wednesday. The Mystics' final list of 11 players, including Beard, must be set by 2 p.m. Friday. Guard Matee Ajavon, who concluded her overseas play with a Turkish league championship Tuesday, is expected to return to the Mystics in time for Saturday's regular season opener against Indiana.