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Thursday, October 28, 2004
Updated: November 3, 12:15 AM ET
'Everything was negative. Dark.'

Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Mystics star Chamique Holdsclaw says she left the team in the middle of the WNBA season because of depression.

Holdsclaw, then the league's second-leading scorer, stopped playing for the Mystics in July to deal with an undisclosed medical issue. She felt afraid and ashamed to discuss what was wrong with her, she told The Washington Post in her first interview since her departure.

Chamique Holdsclaw
The Mystics made the playoffs for the first time since 2000 -- and did it without Chamique Holdsclaw.
"Depression, people just don't realize how it can take over your mind," said Holdsclaw, the WNBA's No. 1 overall pick in 1999. "Yes, I was walking around and looked fine."

She has been under a psychiatrist's care since becoming increasingly withdrawn, alienated from teammates and family and even her oldest confidantes, she said. She changed her cell phone number so that Washington general manager Pat Summitt, her former coach at Tennessee, couldn't reach her.

"I just kind of had to break away from all that," said Holdsclaw, who added that she slept a lot. "I was just doing my own thing, just living without all of the expectations."

The Mystics went on an improbable playoff run in her absence, winning five of their last six regular-season games before losing to Connecticut in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Holdsclaw said she never watched her teammates or any other sports on TV. She sat on the couch in her apartment just a block from the MCI Center.

"Everything was negative," she said. "Dark."

One Mystics fan confronted her in public about her absence, she said.

A passing motorist rolled down his window and began berating her, telling her, "You need to get it together! You need to get back on the court!"

Holdsclaw responded angrily.

"Do you know me?" she shouted "You don't know me!"

Holdsclaw missed seven of the Mystics' final eight games. The forward refused to discuss the reason for her absence, other than to rule out cancer, pregnancy and drug addiction.

In a statement issued last month by the team, Holdsclaw said her condition is not life-threatening or career-threatening.

She failed to show up for a game against Charlotte on July 24. Holdsclaw played in the next game, against Detroit as a reserve, and didn't play the rest of the season. She was placed on the injured list Sept. 1.

Holdsclaw was averaging 19 points per game. She opted out of the U.S. national team for the Athens Olympics, and missed the WNBA All-Star game.