ACC’s Finest

by Lior Klinger, | October 14, 2006


Atlantic Coast Conference alumni La'Tangela Atkinson and Monique Currie both closed their college careers a year ago in the NCAA Final Four, in Boston, both within reach of a national championship. Playing for rivals Duke and North Carolina, the seniors left their collegiate pasts behind them and ventured into their rookie seasons in the WNBA last summer - Atkinson with the Fever, and Currie with the Charlotte Sting. Now, both are paired against one another again in Israel. Embarking on their first seasons overseas, Atkinson and Currie are headlining foreigners in the Israeli women's pro league.

Atkinson was notably one of the Fever's most athletic players during her 2006 rookie season. She became one of Indiana's most dependable rebounders and, here, Atkinson surveys the floor with Currie on defense.
Ramla vs. Ramat Hasharon [Israeli league rivals] is nothing compared to this. Duke vs. North Carolina is the biggest rivalry in college athletics, and this season two young graduates of these two top programs found their way to Israel. We're talking about Monique Currie from Ramla and La'Tangela Atkinson from Raanana Hertzeliya. 'Safsal' caught up with both of them for a chat, and yes they behaved.

"In my freshman year, I had 30 points and 14 rebounds against UNC and we won the ACC tournament" said Monique Currie, it took her one second to name her most memorable moment from the rivalry with the Tar Heels. Atkinson, who was still in high school at the time, wasn't surprised by Currie's answer. Atkinson also got to celebrate an ACC title at the expense of Duke, in her junior year. "Winning the ACC championship was nice, it wasn't just us beating them, it was about the title that we worked so hard for," said Atkinson.

Everyone knows that when Duke and UNC meet, it's anything but an ordinary game. "It's big, it's a game that everyone looks forward to, both have two talented teams, both have great coaches, great players, so that's the game that people look forward to" said Atkinson. "It's much more intense, people say, because the schools are 8 miles away." Currie continued, "both teams have been ranked in the top 5 in the last couple of years."

Atkinson and Currie know each other very well from their many ACC battles, and they even play in the same conference in the WNBA. "She's a really athletic player, she's a great rebounder, you always have to know where she is on the court, and she attacks the basket very well. She's the X-factor for her team, she's the difference in whether they win or not" said Currie. "Monique is a great player," said Atkinson. "She can shoot from the outside, she can penetrate, she does the things that her team needs for them to win and off the court she's a nice person." Despite the fierce rivalry between their schools, both players are actually friends off the court. "I'm not friends with too many Tar Heels but I like Tangie" Currie said with a smile. "Yes she's a friend," Atkinson confirmed, "on the court you have to be enemies but off the court you have to show your personality."

Currie, who was voted preseason MVP by the coaches of the Israeli league, doesn't know much about the league expect that her team has a big rivalry with some team called Ramat Hasharon. Currie who is used to the amazing fans at Duke, got to meet Ramla's hard core fans already. "We have some boys that come to practice every day. I saw them light fireworks in the middle of the practice game, wow." Atkinson has been in Israel a bit longer than Currie, but she's not up to speed on everything either. About the beef her coach has with Ramla, she still knows nothing about. What she does know is what she hopes to accomplish during her time here. "I want to get better all around, to have a complete game" said Atkinson and Currie agreed. "I want to get better, and I want to work on my outside game cause I'm known to go to the basket a lot more than shooting."

One other thing that unfortunately for them, Atkinson and Currie have in common is losing to Maryland in this year's Final Four. I couldn't resist asking them if they think Shay Doron can make it in the WNBA. "Yes," that was Atkinson's answer. Currie elaborated a little. "Yeah, she should. I'm not a fan of Maryland right now, but she's a very good player and her senior year is coming up. She has a good chance, she works hard, she's a good player and she should be drafted."

We wrapped things up with three quick questions:

Score or rebound?
Atkinson: rebound.
Currie: score.

Win by 20 or win by 1?
Currie: by 20.
Atkinson: by 20.

Have the ball or guard the ball?
Atkinson: guard the ball.
Currie: have the ball.