ATLANTA — Angel McCoughtry says she is in a better place.
And with her back in the Atlanta lineup after taking a year off from the WNBA, so are the Dream.
The 6-foot-1, 31-year-old is playing for a new coach and with a host of new teammates. Together, they are the hottest team in the league, winning a franchise-best eight straight games to move up to second place in the league standings heading into this weekend's All-Star break.
McCoughtry, a Baltimore native and St. Frances graduate, returned to the league more mature than before, saying she has “good head space.” McCoughtry was playing in Russia during the WNBA offseason and arrived late to the Dream's training camp because of overseas schedule conflicts, and put in the work to make up for the lost time.
“On the court, I want to be a great leader and a great teammate,” said McCoughtry, who is Atlanta's second leading scorer at 16.5 points per game.
McCoughtry will make her fifth All-Star appearance during the festivities this weekend in Minnesota.
In Russia, McCoughtry played for the Dynamo Kursk and said she used the time off as a “reset.” She opened an ice cream shop in downtown Atlanta in January 2017 as a way to give jobs to the community. Her signature dish is sweet potato waffle sundaes with butter pecan ice cream.
McCoughtry, a self-described homebody, said she has adopted a Labradoodle puppy named Prince Red. He even has his own Instagram page dedicated to his curly-haired cuteness.
It has translated to her game, and her teammates noticed.
Atlanta was 12-22 last year and missed the playoffs.
“The presence she brings on and off the court, it's needed,” Dream guard Brittney Sykes said. “She felt missed.”
First-year Dream coach Nicki Collen agrees.
“There's a confidence about her that I think they all feel,” Collen said of McCoughtry.
Collen, a former women's basketball assistant coach at Louisville, recruited McCoughtry for the Cardinals. McCoughtry set the career scoring record for Louisville women's basketball player during her senior year before being drafted by the Dream.
McCoughtry, who is also averaging six rebounds and three assists for Atlanta, has had impact wherever she has played, including in Turkey, Slovakia, Lebanon and Hungary.
Bringing McCoughtry back to the Dream took some convincing, Collen said.
“You have the chance to really create a legacy,” Collen recalled telling McCoughtry.
Her return has solidified her as one of the Dream's “staples,” Sykes said. Sykes, a rookie last season, said the team needs veteran players like McCoughtry on the team. It is working — Atlanta is 16-9 this season, just 2.5 games behind first-place Seattle in the standings.
New York Liberty center Tina Charles, an Olympic teammate of McCoughtry, said she McCoughtry is a difference-maker on the court.
“She's one of the best all-around players that we have in this league or that this league has seen thus far,” Charles said. “It's effortless for her. She makes things look easy.” McCoughtry's basketball bucket list is pretty full, but there is one thing she hopes to add this year: a WNBA championship.