- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Monique Currie spent a frustrating season on the Washington Mystics’ bench last year, recovering from an ACL injury to her left knee.

“It was really tough last season not being able to play,” said Currie, who’s beginning her seventh season with the Mystics. “To watch your team struggle, and you really can’t help by being out there on the court … but it was an experience players go through all the time. I’m just excited to be back and be able to help my team.”

Currie returns, along with Matee Ajavon, Crystal Langhorne and Jasmine Thomas. But everyone else on the roster is new, and this reinvented squad is expecting to greatly improve on last year’s 6-28 record as it prepares for its 15th WNBA season.

“Some wins, that’s what I’m looking forward to this year,” Currie said. “I think we have all the tools to compete with every team in this league. If we can put it all together, get on the same page and have that team chemistry, we’ll be much more successful than we were last season.”

The Mystics opened training camp Sunday and are expected to have 16 players come through camp before final roster cuts and the preseason opener May 10 in Chicago. The regular season begins May 19 at Verizon Center against the Sky.

General manager and coach Trudi Lacey knows exactly what she’s looking for this year.

“Defense, rebounding, and an unselfish approach offensively,” Lacey said. “We’re looking for players that complement each other on the offensive end. We wanted to have a little bit more experience. We lost a lot of close games last year, just didn’t make plays at the end of the game, so experience should help that.”

Lacey’s remake has transformed the Mystics from one of the league’s youngest teams to one with a better mix of youth and players and veterans, including 13-year vet Dominique Canty, 10-year vet Michelle Snow, and eight-year vet Ashley Robinson. Gone are former All-Star Alana Beard and former Maryland star Marissa Coleman, both now with the Los Angeles Sparks.

“It’s a new season. It’s not the same team,” Lacey said. “This team is undefeated right now, so we have a whole new approach going in. We’re believing and we’re working very hard. I believe its going to come together very well and be a much different season.”

Rookie Natalie Novosel, a 5-foot-11 guard from Notre Dame who was Washington’s first pick in last month’s WNBA draft, should be a key player this season.

Novosel’s first week in training camp turned out to be a bit harder than she thought, but she’s making the adjustment from college to the WNBA.

“It’s really competitive, really intense,” said Novosel, whose nickname is “Nasty.” “I’ve just been trying to hold my own and show them that I belong and trying to keep my confidence up. The level of competition is tough, but I’m adapting. I just wake up every day happy to be here.”

• Carla Peay can be reached at cpeay@washingtontimes.com.

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