Angel McCoughtry was ready to quit.
The Atlanta Dream forward was frustrated with the way she was playing in her first WNBA season. The game was no longer fun, so she gave serious consideration to giving up the game of basketball. Serious consideration.
Good thing she stayed.
McCoughtry and the Dream are about to get more recognition for their about-face season.
Marynell Meadors and McCoughtry are expected to be named Coach of the Year and Rookie of the Year, respectively, when the WNBA announces the winners Thursday.
“The best thing about this year is that I struggled at the beginning of the year,” McCoughtry said Wednesday. “I was down on myself. Then I just thought, if I wasn’t talented I wouldn’t be here. I can play. When I did that I started to play my game.”
McCoughtry, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, has already been named to the league’s all-rookie team. The forward led all rookies in points (12.8) and steals (2.2) and was fifth in assists (2.1). She won Rookie of the Month honors in July and August.
“I was just so frustrated,” McCoughtry said. “Hopefully, this may inspire anyone else who gets frustrated. Don’t give up.”
Meadors, the general manager and coach of the second-year franchise, led the team to an 18-16 record and a playoff berth this season. The turnaround came just one year after the team went 4-30 in its inaugural campaign, including a WNBA-record 0-17 start. It was the second biggest one-year turnaround in WNBA history.
The Dream were swept by Detroit in the first round of the playoffs, playing without starters Chamique Holdsclaw (knee surgery) and Shalee Lehning (shoulder surgery).
“I know we were all disappointed because we didn’t go deeper in the playoffs, but I couldn’t lose sight of what we accomplished,” Meadors said. “My coaching staff was outstanding, and I have to thank all the players. I thought we were a lot farther ahead then we should have been as a second-year franchise.”
McCoughtry is currently at the 2009 USA Basketball women’s national team training camp in Washington. She is trying to secure a spot on the national team for the 2010 World Championships.
The playoff loss still stings the coach and the player. They are already looking to next year -- and beyond.
“Our goal was to make the playoffs and see what we could do,” Meadors said. “We can’t ever get satisfied. We’re hungry to improve next year.”
“I’m very happy with the season, but disappointed we didn’t go as far as we wanted,” McCoughtry said. “A couple of years from now, we’ll look back and say we needed this. This will make us stronger for next year. So, maybe it’s a good thing.”
The awards are not the only ones for the Dream this offseason. McCoughtry and Sancho Lyttle were named to the All-Defensive second team. Erika de Souza finished second in the Defensive Player of the Year voting.
That’s a lot of postseason hardware. Is there room in the Dream offices?
“We’ll make room,” Meadors said.