Just call her The Skipper.
Monique Currie thinks of herself as a different kind of leader. Many captains prefer to rally their teams by way of impassioned speeches or intense emotion on the court, but Duke’s new go-to player prefers a more casual approach.
“I think I’m a lot more laid-back than captains in the past,” Currie said. “I try not to let the rest of the team get uptight or feel pressure, because if people tighten up, they don’t play so well. I just try to encourage a more relaxed method, and usually good things tend to happen.”
Currie learned patience the hard way. After averaging 14.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game in one of the best freshman seasons in Duke history, Currie tore her ACL in the first game of her sophomore season.
She has successfully rebounded from her injury and will now join college basketball’s elite. Eighty-one points away from being the 18th member of Duke’s 1,000-point club, Currie is also a National Player of the Year candidate and the ACC’s Preseason Player of the Year, a title she quickly downplays.
“It’s an honor, but at the same time they picked our team to finish second,” Currie said. “So that takes away from that nomination. I’m just looking to get wins however I can, that’s what is most important to me.”
2003-2004 captain Alana Beard had a significant impact on Currie, who still considers the Washington Mystic to be the best player she’s ever played with or against.
“I learned a lot from Alana,” Currie said. “She comes to practice every day just to work really hard. She put her all into every drill, and every practice and every game, and it rubs off on you. You want to work just as hard as her in order to get to the same level that she’s at.”
In her first two seasons Currie’s style of play has been slasher first, shooter second. In the off-season, though, she focused on diversifying her game and polishing her three-point shot.
After spending two season’s as the Blue Devils’ third option behind Beard and Iciss Tillis, the Washington, D.C., native believes she is ready to not only assume leadership, but also become the team’s primary scorer.
“I didn’t really see myself in a shadow, but I could see how other people might think that,” Currie said. “I have a role that people dream about growing up—being able to lead a team and try to lead them to great things. It’s a great feeling.”
As Currie has risen to the top of Duke’s program, her relationship with head coach Gail Goestenkors has gelled. The junior says she now visits her coach’s office more frequently in order to relate Goestenkors’s expectations to her teammates.
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In part a result of these visits, Goestenkors believes Currie is ready to embrace the captain’s position.
“Mo has always been the tough one on the team and she leads by example with her toughness,” Goestenkors said. “But this year she’s become a much better communicator with her teammates because she knows we’re young and she needs to be very positive for them as well. All of the players have remarked that she’s become a great leader for us.”
Currie will have a tough task ahead of her, as she tries to break her team’s string of recent of NCAA Tournament disappointments. Last year’s loss to Minnesota in the Elite Eight was especially frustrating.
“Obviously it wasn’t the ending we were hoping for,” Currie said. “It hurts a lot because we know we worked so hard and still came up short. But it was their day, so we have to live with it and move on.”
Currie’s success will be the key to matching her own lofty expectations, and she will need to fill the potential void left by the departure of last year’s seniors.
“We know how good we are and we know what we can do. We’re ready to go out there and prove it to everybody else,” Currie said. “We’re going to win it all this year. Our goals don’t change.”