“I'm not waking up aching, nothing is hurting right now,” said the 30-year-old Atlanta Dream forward. “It's a good feeling.”
Having not played in a game since May, McCoughtry (St. Frances) said she is physically ready for a return to basketball. She will start playing again late next month at a USA Basketball camp in California before returning to Russia in October to join the EuroLeague's Dynamo Kursk.
She has been playing year-round in the WNBA and overseas for eight straight years and said she felt the nonstop grind was starting to take its toll.
McCoughtry decided to sit out the 2017 WNBA season to recover, both physically and mentally, in an effort to prolong her career. Candace Parker sat out part of the 2015 season to rest and Diana Taurasi missed the entire 2015 season. Dealing with with pain from plantar fasciitis and tendinitis, she announced her decision in January.
A year ago at the Rio Olympics, McCoughtry averaged 9.4 points and 3.6 rebounds per game for the U.S., which won its sixth straight gold medal.
“We need that” rest, said McCoughtry, who said she has followed the Dream and even attended a game last week. “Who can play basketball all year with no break for years and years and years? We're not machines, we're not robots. It's (illogical), so you really need that time off just for your mental, number one, and then for your body.”
McCoughtry, who was born and raised in Baltimore, said mentally she is relishing her longest break from the game since college. During her time off, she has taken a trip to Africa with her partner Brande Serrano, tried boxing and yoga to stay in shape and opened her own ice cream stop.
The shop is called McCoughtry's and is located in Atlanta's Castleberry Hill area. McCoughtry said she was inspired to open an ice cream shop by her sweet tooth. Other WNBA players — Seattle Storm's Sue Bird, Minnesota's Maya Moore, Los Angeles' Alana Beard and Indiana's Marissa Coleman (Maryland) — have also invested in the food industry.
McCoughtry secured the space for shop, bought the necessary equipment and learned how to make ice cream through YouTube tutorials. She said much of her training to run the shop has been on the job. For example, she said flavors she thought would be a hit, like coffee, Snickers and peach did not sell, while blueberry cheesecake and banana pudding have been customer favorites.
The shop opened in June, but McCoughtry said she came up with the idea more than two years ago. She added the timing of its opening and her sitting out the season is just a coincidence.
It's no coincidence, however, that the Dream has struggled without their leading scorer. McCoughtry has averaged 19.5 points, five rebounds and three assists per game in her Atlanta career.
Atlanta (10-19) has lost its last eight games and the Dream's playoff hopes are fading.
Despite how the season has played out, the Dream say they respect McCoughtry's decision. The team placed the franchise tag on McCoughtry after the announcement and McCoughtry said co-owner Mary Brock was an early visitor to the ice cream shop.
“Angel has decided to take the time she feels she needs for her long-term health,” Brock said in an emailed statement to The Associated Press. “We respect her decision and look forward to her return. I am proud of her venture off the court and wish her luck in bringing a new small business to the city of Atlanta.”
McCoughtry said she didn't totally step away from the game during the break, noting that she's been working out. But even if the Dream reach the playoffs, she said she wouldn't try to return.
“If I just came back for playoffs, I don't think that would be fair to everybody who has played the whole year,” McCoughtry said. “I don't think that's fair. I would do it the right way, and come back next year.”
But she once again be playing overseas before the WNBA season tips off, and has her sights on the 2018 FIBA World Cup in Spain next summer.
McCoughtry said there's no doubt the time off has been good for her, “but everybody needs to be ready for the return,” she added, with a laugh.