GSU to retire hoops legend Mary Currie’s jersey

Former Grambling State women’s basketball great Mary Currie (right) averaged 20.7 points and 8.3 rebounds during her career as a Lady Tiger. (Courtesy photo)

By T. Scott Boatright


She’s been touted by former Grambling State University women’s basketball coach Patricia Cage-Bibbs for putting the Lady Tigers on the national sports map.

And on Saturday, the late Mary Currie will be honored for the legendary performances she turned in for the Lady Tigers that are still remembered 30 years later.

Currie, who played for the Lady Tigers from 1983-87 and was inducted into the Grambling Legends Hall of Fame in 2010, is the team’s all-time leading scorer with 2,256 points and averaged 20.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game while connecting on 51.9% of her shots from the field during her college career.

During halftime of Saturday’s men’s home game against Texas Southern, which is set to tip-off at 4 p.m., Currie’s No. 14 jersey will be officially retired and take its place in the rafters of the Fredrick C. Hobdy Assembly Center.

Currie, who passed away at the age of 34 in June of 2000 after a battle against Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS),  began her basketball career as a young student at Dubach High School, helping lead the Hornets to a state title during her senior season in 1983.

She then moved on to GSU along with Bibbs, her head coach at Dubach before Bibbs took over the Lady Tigers women’s basketball program.. 

“I started coaching Mary at Dubach when she was in eighth grade,” Bibbs said. “She started for me as an eighth-grader and then I coached her all the way through college. That talent I saw in her was apparent early on. 

When I met her, I recognized her work ethic was very good. She was very smart and she also showed me early on that she was willing to do anything I asked of her. She was good enough and hard-working enough as an eighth-grader that I sat some juniors down to start Mary Currie. So I knew from those first practices what kind of talent this kid had.”

Part of what caught Bibbs’ attention early on was Currie’s drive — both on the court and in the classroom. That drive showed long after her playing career as Currie went on to become a successful software engineer who was working on her MBA at the time of her death.

“She was quick to learn, too,” Bibbs said. “Her intellect was off the charts in everything she did. We’re on the bus and she’d have her light on over her seat as she was doing her work. Even though we had some really important games we were preparing for, she was focused on her schoolwork, too. 

“Mary was so smart. She never was behind in anything and after basketball she went on to do amazing things for some major companies before her demise.”

One of Currie’s college teammates, Elsie Dillard, who played for the Lady Tigers from 1986-90, remembers Currie as wanting to excel in all aspects of her life.

“She worked hard at everything and many of her teammates fed off that energy and drive,” Dillard said. “She took care of business in the classroom, so we all wanted to do the same. And she played just as hard as she studied. 

“But one of the things I remember most about Mary is how good she looked and how important that was to her. She loved to dress up, and would wear these beautiful clothes with huge, incredible earrings and things like that. She could have been a model if she wanted. She was one of those people who could do anything she put her mind to.”

Bibbs and Dillard both remembered one of Currie’s most shining moments as a Lady Tiger coming during a tournament at the University of Mississippi in 1995 when Currie poured in 50 points against the Lady Rebels.

“She went 18-of-19 from the field,” Bibbs said. “A lot of those were putbacks. She played above the rim. She would go in there, grab the rebound and just hang there to score the basket.”

Dillard remembers believing Currie would be knocked out of that game —literally — before climbing back to her feet and jumping right back into her Energizer Bunny routine.

“She fell and hit her head on the court, and you could hear the sound of her head hitting the floor throughout the gym,” Dillard said. “It echoed throughout the gym. But she got up and kept right on going.

“These days, with concussion protocols and things like that, they wouldn’t have let her keep playing. But that wasn’t around in those days and Mary was unstoppable. She was a force and as long as she was conscious, she was going to keep on fighting, keep on going, keep on scoring, keep on rebounding. She did whatever it took to try to get that win.”

Dillard, who lives in her home state of Florida, expressed her regret at not being able to attend Saturday’s ceremony.

“But we’re all going to get together at some point in the near future, probably next season, and remember Mary together,” Dillard said. “There’s nobody more deserving of this honor than her.” 

Currie’s family — sisters Wanda, senior women’s administrator for GSU athletics, and Carolyn, Brenda and LaKinya, who all also played basketball for the Lady Tigers, issued a statement about their sibling’s honor:

“The Currie family is elated that Mary’s jersey is being retired. We feel this honor is well-deserved for the outstanding contributions she made to GSU’s Women’s Basketball. Special thanks to GSU President Gallot, Athletics Director Dr. Trayvean Scott and everyone involved in making this event possible.”

For all of them, along with Bibbs and Currie’s former teammates, it’s a time to remember a special person who greatly touched all of their lives.

“Her teammates loved her and knew she gave it all she had,” Bibbs said. “That was the special thing. I loved all my girls, all my players. But Mary was special and they all knew that because I started coaching her so young. She was a special person and is still very missed by all of us.

“I coached at three universities and coached a lot of great players, but Mary was special — she was truly special.”