Angel McCoughtry Has Arrived
The Atlanta Dream forward takes the WNBA by storm.
By Ben York/@bjyork
Angel McCoughtry is now officially a superstar.
Over the weekend, McCoughtry led the Atlanta Dream to its best start in franchise history (6-0) with impressive wins over the Phoenix Mercury and the Los Angeles Sparks. Against Phoenix, McCoughtry finished with 28 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 blocks in 33 minutes of action. The Dream then traveled to Los Angeles where McCoughtry tallied a phenomenal 32 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 assists. Amazing, yes; but those stat lines are becoming commonplace for McCoughtry…and the league is on full alert.
When asked how it felt to emerge as a superstar, McCoughtry dismissed the notion and deflected credit to her teammates – exactly the kind of thing a superstar would do.
“I don’t see it that way,” McCoughtry said when asked what it feels like to be labeled a superstar. “I look at it like we are having so much fun playing together; this is just a part of what happens. We have some really good chemistry going right now and we just have to continue it.”
Spoken like a true leader; and make no mistake about it – Angel McCoughtry is already leading this young Dream team.
Still, it would be inaccurate to cite only her quantitative stats as a measure of her worth. Her value cannot be summed up merely through numbers; it’s how she approaches the game on both ends of the floor. It’s how she causes the defense to constantly be aware of where she is at all times (leaving multiple scoring opportunities for teammates). It’s the way she bounces back from adversity after a missed shot, or a run from the opposing team, or even after a loss. She stays hungry, motivated, and never content. Her competitive nature is virtually second to none, but along with that, is an incredibly kind and generous person. McCoughtry is easy to get along with and the perfect player to build a team around.
“You hear a lot of people dwell on losses, but I think people should dwell on wins more,” McCoughtry told SLAMonline. “I mean, you can never be satisfied. You can enjoy it, but you have to take it one game at a time.”
Selected 1st overall in the 2009 WNBA Draft by the Atlanta Dream, McCoughtry was looked at to be the centerpiece of a rebuilding franchise. As with any first-year player, it took a while for McCoughtry to gain her footing and get a sense for what life in the WNBA would be like.
Mediocrity has never sat well with Angel. After all, she is the all-time leading scorer and rebounder at Louisville. Coming to the Dream as a No.1 pick, expectations were set higher than most other players and rightfully so. Although she got off to a fairly slow start and as a result saw her minutes diminish in 2009, Angel went back to the drawing board and decided that she would do whatever it takes to fulfill her own expectations as a marquee player.
Towards the second half of the season, McCoughtry’s numbers increased significantly and was a major reason why the Dream won 14 more games than the year prior, tying a league record. Averaging 13 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists per game in just over 20 minutes of action, McCoughtry would eventually be voted as the 2009 WNBA Rookie of the Year. Additionally, she was named to the 2009 WNBA All-Defensive 2nd Team and finished 4th in the league in steals per game (2.18).
However, it was overseas where we truly started to see the superstar in Angel emerge. McCoughtry, playing for Good Angles Kosice in Slovakia, averaged 19 points (2nd in the EuroLeague), 7.8 rebounds, 3.3 steals, and 2.4 assists a game while shooting 47% from the field. She was also added to Team USA’s final roster for the 2010 World Championships – a tremendous honor. Perhaps more amazing, she was named as the Most Valuable Player in the 2009 UMMC Ekaterinburg International Invitational tournament that Team USA participated in.
“It’s hard playing all year round sometimes,” McCoughtry said. “But still, I’m just enjoying myself. I’m having so much fun.”
Still, playing so well overseas doesn’t always translate to the WNBA game. McCoughtry would need to come back to the United States and prove that the momentum and experience she gained playing overseas would continue.
Through six games, McCoughtry is leading the WNBA in scoring at 24 ppg and the Dream is the hottest team in the league. In fact, McCoughtry received her first Player of the Week honors for her phenomenal start to the season. The Dream are in the midst of their best start in franchise history in large part due to McCoughtry’s 24 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.7 steals, and 1.5 blocks per game.
Talented, athletic, driven – easily the first few words that come to mind when you think of McCoughtry. But what separates McCoughtry from other stars is her ability to be a factor on both ends of the floor on such a consistent basis. Defensively, she can lock down their opponent’s best player any given night. Yet, at the same time, she finds a way to produce offensively due to her sheer athleticism and high-energy approach to the game. It seems that McCoughtry already has a firm grasp of when to take over a game, when to distribute the ball to her teammates, and when to focus on getting stops rather than solely putting the ball in the basket. For this to happen in just her 2nd year in the league is quite remarkable.
Although, as with any star, there has to be other significant and productive players on the team to compliment each other – and McCoughtry certainly has those players in Erika de Souza, Sancho Lyttle, and Iziane Castro Marques. The four players make up almost 67 points of the Dream’s 87 ppg average.
“We haven’t done anything yet,” the drive McCoughtry said. “We have the potential to be great. A 6-0 start is nice, but it won’t matter if we don’t continue it. I think it’s the chemistry; the love on this team that is so important this year.”
The Eastern Conference is so unpredictable in 2010 that the Atlanta Dream could find themselves at the top of the pack come playoff time. If the start to the season is any indication, it seems they’ll go as far as Angel McCoughtry will take them.
“One game at a time…,” McCoughtry reiterates.