Monique Currie had almost made it to the end of her first media appearance back in a Washington Mystics jersey when guard Tayler Hill cut into the semicircle of reporters to ask for a selfie. Hill slung an arm around Currie, who immediately threw up a peace sign for the photo op before Hill skipped away. When the interview finished, Currie slapped low five with a passing Tierra Ruffin-Pratt and laughed with Coach-General Manager Mike Thibault.
On that morning this month, Currie was one of just two non-rookies milling about Capital One Arena who didn’t play for Washington last year; Thibault had added her and fifth-year pro Devereaux Peters as free agents during the offseason. But Currie didn’t seem like a newbie.
“D.C. has always been home,” she said.
Currie was raised in Northwest Washington and went to high school at Bullis before heading off to Duke for college. The District remained the place she came back to in her free time, even after she signed with Phoenix in 2015 following nearly eight full seasons with the Mystics.
This season, which the Mystics will begin Sunday against the visiting Indiana Fever, will mark the first time in four years that Currie has been in Washington full time. Her D.C. hasn’t changed — she still spends time with her family, hits go-go shows whenever she can and keeps the standing happy hour appointments she first made with friends long ago. But Currie has.
“For example, I do Pilates now,” she said, splitting into a wide grin one recent early morning before practice.
But Currie returned to Washington for her 13th WNBA season with much more than added flexibility and core strength.
In three seasons spent between the San Antonio Stars and Phoenix Mercury, Currie saw what it takes to operate as a pro at the highest level by playing alongside Diana Taurasi. She more deeply explored the non-basketball interests she always has harbored, and she found a new level of work-life balance along the way.
Currie, 35, was brought back to Washington in part to bridge a scoring gap created when Emma Meesseman, who ranked second on the team last year with 14.1 points per game, decided to take this WNBA season off. A 6-foot wing, Currie averaged 10.8 points per game and shot 42.8 percent from the field last year, and she has added a dependable three-point shot in recent seasons.
Plus, she brings a dose of veteran wisdom to the locker room.
“There’s things she’s learned at other places that are a little bit different that she can bring to us and help younger teammates with,” Thibault said. “She can step back from the process a little bit and say, ‘This is what I’ve learned over my career,’ then help a younger player do that. That’s where her voice will be important on and off the court.”
The Mystics, too, have changed. They finished above .500 just once in Currie’s first go-round; last season, after adding decorated veterans Elena Delle Donne and Kristi Toliver as part of a roster overhaul, they reached the WNBA semifinals for the first time in 15 years. Delle Donne (team-high 19.7 points per game) and Toliver (11.9 ppg) are back. Hill (13.3 ppg) is expected to return from a torn anterior cruciate ligament that sidelined her for the second half of last season but not until at least June.
In Phoenix, Currie learned a lot watching Taurasi, the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer, in her 13th season a year ago. What stuck with Currie most was how Taurasi, who married former player Penny Taylor last year and welcomed her first child in March, moved on at the end of the work day.
“You don’t have to carry anything over,” Currie said. “It’s stuff like that that I think a lot of players let get in the way of their success . . . . The way she carries herself is like, wow. I had never played with a player on the level that she’s on. You can see the difference.”
Not allowing basketball to dominate the rest of her life is important to Currie. Off the court, she likes to talk politics and is a news junkie: NPR and CNN accompany her drives around the city. She will get to the museums when she can, especially the National Museum of African American History and Culture, where her jersey hangs as part of the sports exhibition.
Currie’s passion for journalism led her to start a website in 2016 with a friend she met at Duke. WomensBasketball247.com tracks foreign leagues, providing updates in English that are hard to come by in the United States. She also serves as a vice president of the WNBA players’ union.
“I have all this knowledge, this experience, from being here so long. And I plan on being around for a while, so why not share it?” Currie said.
Time — and how much of it she has left in the league — seems to come up in every conversation nowadays. She said her interest in returning to Washington was purely business, not an emotional desire to return home toward the end of her career. But she admits that being here with her family has been pretty sweet.
“I mean, I’m not going to be playing until I’m 40. That’s impossible,” Currie said, her smile returning. “And these young girls, they’re fast! Pilates doesn’t help with that! So I’ll just go as I feel. As long as I’m having fun and it makes sense, basketball is what I’ll do. And now I’m home. It’ll be cool to be here, to possibly finish my career here. That would be nice.”