Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry, right, and Dream head coach Marynell Meadors will both represent America in the upcoming Olympic games in London.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: In preparation for the start of the 2012 Summer Olympics, The Herald will count down the days until the Games begin July 27 in London with at least one preview or feature in each day’s sports section about the athletes and their stories that make the Olympic Games so special. Enjoy!)
ATLANTA — The Dream’s Angel McCoughtry and Marynell Meadors will share a unique bond during the London Games: They are the only WNBA player-coach tandem on a U.S. squad shooting for a fifth consecutive gold medal.
McCoughtry, the WNBA’s leading scorer, will be making her Olympic debut along with three other newcomers. Meadors said McCoughtry had been with the Dream on their current West coast trip, but returned to Atlanta on July 8. She hasn’t played since July 1 because of a sprained knee ligament.
“She has been rehabbing her knee the last few games to get ready for the Olympics,” Meadors said. “She plans to be ready to go by the time we get to London.”
Despite a slow start this season, the explosive McCoughtry is averaging 22.6 points per game. She has led the Dream to back-to-back WNBA finals since she was drafted No. 1 out of Louisville three years ago.
The 25-year-old McCoughtry has a chance to play in a few more Olympics — possibly joining the ranks of her 2012 teammates, Sue Bird, Tamika Catchings and Diana Taurasi, who will be participating in their third.
USA Basketball women’s national team director, Carol Callan, said that individually Meadors and McCoughtry are exceptional. Callan, who is part of the committee that selected both women, said having them together is a bonus.
“It helps that Marynell knows Angel as well as she does. It’s definitely an advantage,” Callan said. “It’s not always something we are necessarily looking to do but it’s a nice benefit to the team.”
Meadors is also making her Olympic debut.
“Her success with the Atlanta Dream speaks for itself,” Callan said. “She knows the strength and weaknesses of everyone. She is a great resource on the players end and also as a coach because of what has been successful with her coaching for the Dream.”
A key player in that success has been McCoughtry, whose selection was a simple decision.
“Angel is obviously a star player in the WNBA and we want her for all those reasons that come with it,” Callan said. “Certainly her athleticism, she is very efficient at getting to the basket.”
Callan said one of McCoughtry’s strong suits is her ability to “cause havoc on the defensive end.”
“She can handle the ball herself and she adds the speed and the quickness that makes the team always feel like they are back on their heels,” Callan said.
And McCoughtry is ready to do just that. Her face lights up with a bright smile with the mere mention of the Olympics.
“I’m going to be with the best coach in the world and the best players in the world. I can’t help but be excited about everything,” McCoughtry said. “I’m ready, my bags are already packed.”
Meadors, who will be assistant on head coach Geno Auriemma’s staff, said it’s hard to articulate how much the honor means.
“To have the opportunity to represent the United States in the Olympics is an experience that most people don’t have the opportunity to do, and I’m very thankful I was selected for that,” she said.
A shot at Olympic gold has helped McCoughtry remain upbeat. Despite the sore left knee that has caused her to miss several WNBA games this season, McCoughtry said she has been training hard for the London Games.
“I’m just so excited not just to see another country, but to go out and play with the girls,” she said.
McCoughtry said trying to win games while prepping for London has been a juggling act, but she isn’t complaining.
“It’s what I do. It’s what I love to do,” she said.
After the Dream (9-9) wraps up their six-game, 15-day road trip Friday at San Antonio. Meadors and McCoughtry will join the USA women’s Olympic team in Washington for a condensed practice schedule. The team will play its first exhibition game Monday against Brazil at the Verizon Center.
“Everybody is pretty much on task when they get to us because they know we don’t have a lot of time,” Callan said.
Twelve practice days is all they will have before the Olympics begin. Other teams have an average of three months to prepare.
Just before the WNBA season started, the USA squad practiced in Seattle in May, and this weekend marks the first time the team has been together since then. The 12 days of practice include four exhibition games: Monday’s game against Brazil and others against Britain, Croatia and Turkey.
The Olympic tournament begins July 28 and ends with the gold-medal game on Aug. 11.