- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 26, 2000

Following Monday's home loss to the New York Liberty, Chamique Holdsclaw stood near her locker, giving polite answers to reporters' questions.

When one was posed about losing to New York, she didn't wait to hear the whole sentence.

"You hate to lose to New York," Holdsclaw cut in. Considering she's from Astoria in the Queens borough of New York losing to her hometown team is not something she enjoys.

As a member of the Washington Mystics, Holdsclaw has had to answer questions about losing more than she is used to; before she came to the Mystics, she won. She won four state championships at Christ The King High School. She won three NCAA titles and was a four-time All-American at Tennessee.

Holdsclaw's success and her being hailed as the "female Michael Jordan" while still at Tennessee raised expectations for herself and her professional team to extraordinary levels. The Mystics haven't measured up to the hype.
They finished 12-20 last season, Holdsclaw's first, and this year, after a 5-3 start, the Mystics (11-13) have lost 10 of 16 games, a poor showing for a team that many predicted would challenge for the Eastern Conference title. The Mystics are in fourth place by one-half game, in danger of missing the postseason. Holdsclaw, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1999 WNBA Draft, had vowed the Mystics would make the playoffs in 2000.
How has " 'Mique" handled the increased pressure without the accompanying success? With remarkable poise and maturity, actually. Through a conflict with a coach (Nancy Darsch), a second straight losing season (to this point) and heightened exposure, she has stayed positive. Holdsclaw has said she realizes the situation that the top pick faces: she is going to a poor team which the Mystics were, going 3-27 in '98 and she's supposed to immediately change that. Despite averaging a team-high 17.3 points and 7.1 rebounds, she has not been able to flip the switch that easily.
"It's frustrating, but what I've learned to do is be patient," Holdsclaw said. "Nothing great is going to be built overnight. I just have to be patient. You definitely want to see progress, and I've seen it. But I just know that we could do so much more.
"I could sit there and complain, and moan about it and be upset about it, but it's like when you're back's against the wall, you have to kind of persevere."
And Holdsclaw has, essentially because she's accustomed to persevering under the blinding glare of the spotlight. She did it in Knoxville, Tenn., guided by legendary Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt. Summitt, who remains one of Holdsclaw's closest confidants, helped Holdsclaw understand the pressures she would receive as a female sports icon. At Tennessee, Summitt taught her to handle herself with graciousness and class, and Holdsclaw has learned well.
"I think people just expect so much out of her," said Nikki McCray, who played at Tennessee from 1991-95 and is a teammate of Holdsclaw's on the U.S. Olympic team. "She's done a really good job of handling it."
Mystics guard Keisha Anderson remembers approaching Holdsclaw after realizing how much humility the star forward had. It surprised her.
"I thought maybe she would have a teeny-weeny little bit of arrogance, but she doesn't," Anderson said. "Everybody always asks me back home what she's like and … [Holdsclaw is] very, very down to earth and low-key. It's like she almost shies away from all the attention that she gets."
Holdsclaw said she has kept a level head largely because of the presence of her grandmother, who raised her in Astoria. She received lessons of pride, dignity and respect. Holdsclaw also readily acknowledges the role of God in her life.
"I can always get down on my knees and thank God for what He's given me," Holdsclaw said. "You can't always talk to people. Sometimes I need that quiet time to myself where I can pray and ask God for the answers. All the time, you don't get what you want, but I realize sometimes it comes in a way you don't imagine."
Her experience with the Mystics likely has not been what she imagined, either.
One of the highlights for Holdsclaw this season came when she knocked down the game-winning shot in Madison Square Garden to beat the Liberty on June 13. If only for one game, she could sense what it would be like playing in front of true home fans, ones she longs to play for.
While the District of Columbia is not all that far from New York, Holdsclaw has not hesitated to share her preference of where she wants to play. Her disagreement with Darsch earlier this season likely didn't endear her to the Mystics, but Darsch resigned before a substantial rift developed.
"I like it here in D.C. I love the fans and stuff, but it would be a lie if I said I wouldn't love to play in front of my family and all my friends day in and day out," Holdsclaw said. "If I could just play one year in New York, it would be really great."
But for now she's in the District, trying to come through on some assertions she made in the preseason.
"If we don't [make the playoffs], I'm going to be pretty upset," Holdsclaw said in early May. "I'm the one who said it, so I'm going to try to take responsibility. It's on my shoulders."
More than a dozen of Holdsclaw's family and friends were at MCI Center on Monday for the Mystics' game against New York. Until or if she gets to play in New York, she'll hate to lose to the Liberty. But wherever Holdsclaw plays, she'd love to win like she did before she got to Washington.
Note Point guard Andrea Nagy, who strained her right groin in Sunday's practice and did not play Monday, will undergo an MRI. Coach Darrell Walker said he expects to learn of the results tonight in Charlotte, N.C., where the Mystics play the Sting at 7:30 p.m. Walker added that Markita Aldridge could see some time at point guard backing up new starter Keisha Anderson.

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