Angel McCoughtry led the WNBA in scoring this season for the second year in a row. She was second in steals per game and a member of the All-WNBA Second Team, too.
She has earned other accolades as well, including All-WNBA First Team honors in 2011 and Rookie of the Year in 2009. But something is missing for the Baltimore native: a WNBA championship.
McCoughtry and her Atlanta Dream teammates are looking to change that starting Sunday with the first game of the WNBA Finals against the Minnesota Lynx.
While McCoughtry hasn't been able to earn a title, she has come very close to doing so twice in her five-year career.
The Dream fell short in the Finals in both 2010 and 2011. But every season presents new opportunities, and she now finds herself with yet another chance to bring home a title.
"It means a lot, I mean each time is special. You work a lot to get there, and to get there is pretty awesome," McCoughtry said. "This time, we're really just trying to go ahead and get over that hump and take the victory home. We have a different team, different coach this time, so hopefully we can just be up to the challenge."
After a frustrating 2012 season, McCoughtry focused on improving one particular aspect of her game: passing. She tried to get better at her ability to dish out assists, and there was a noticeable improvement: Through the regular season, she had 4.4 assists per game, compared to a career average of 3 per game.
A championship run can't be completed off the efforts of one player, of course; McCoughtry said she gives credit for her improved assist totals to her teammates for making their shots.
Coach Fred Williams said he will be looking for significant contributions from McCoughtry's teammates, especially Erika de Souza, who he called "Ms. Double-Double," as well as Tiffany Hayes and Armintie Herrington.
That said, Williams did not deny the importance of a player like McCoughtry to a team with championship aspirations. Williams expects her to play the same prominent role in the team's scoring, passing and stealing games during the finals that she had throughout the season.
"Everything's a learning process for players each year," Williams said. "Angel's gotten better and better in this league even if it's on the floor, off the floor, and she's always a competitor. I've always liked teaching competitive players."
McCoughtry has come a long way from her days of playing hoops for St. Frances in East Baltimore, where she grew up.
Looking back on those days now, she said the experience she developed from playing with "the guys" outside every day helped her get tough and develop a skill set that has helped her reach the high level she is playing at now.
She is relishing the opportunity to fight for a championship title in the Finals yet again.
"I feel good," McCoughtry said. "It feels good to be here, because it's like every year you prove people wrong, they never expect us to be here at the beginning of the season and even say we won't make the playoffs.
"So, we're kind of used to that, we're kind of used to just playing with a chip on my shoulder."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun