Hoops star has Franklin ties

Published 8:50 am Friday, June 12, 2009

The top pick in the 2009 WNBA draft has connections to Franklin. Angel McCoughtry, who recently led the University of Louisville to the NCAA women’s basketball championship game, was the top draft pick of the Atlanta Dream. As a kid, McCoughtry played basketball at the College Drive basketball courts while visiting Franklin with her grandmother.

Qunis Taylor, a 1955 graduate of Hayden High School who moved to Maryland after her schooling in Franklin, liked to bring her children and grandchildren with her when she visited friends and former classmates in Franklin. Taylor said that McCoughtry always loved to play basketball.

“I wanted them to know where I came from,” Taylor said in a telephone interview. “As a child she would go to the play areas and played basketball everywhere she went.”

McCoughtry, who just played her initial games with the Dream this past week, said she remembers those days in Franklin.

“She would bring us down there often to see the family. I used to come down and play a little bit and meet my cousins and enjoy myself. It was a lot of fun,” McCoughtry said after practice with the Dream on Tuesday. “Anywhere I could play on the playground, I would go.”

Her junior year at Lousiville, McCoughtry was named to several All-America teams. She had set a single season school record for scoring and poured in 41 points against DePaul, tying her own school record. She finished the season ranked fourth in the nation in scoring and second in steals.

Her senior year, McCoughtry was voted an All-American. In her 39 games, she averaged 23.1 points per game with 9.3 rebounds per game and led the nation in steals. She became the all-time leading scorer at Louisville and poured in a school-record 43 points against Providence. McCoughtry scored 23 points in a losing effort in the NCAA championship game against Connecticut. Even with all of those accolades, being picked No. 1 in the WNBA draft was a surprise to Angel.

“The thing about it is anyone could have been number one in the draft. They chose me and that is so humbling. Nobody expected me to go number one and it was a lot of fun,” she said.

The Dream, an expansion team in 2008, had a rough initial season, winning just 4 of 34 games. McCoughtry has made an instant impact with Atlanta, averaging 12.5 points per game and helping the Dream to a 1-1 record. Her first two games have already showed McCoughtry the differences between the college and pro game.

“The game is so much more physical and so much more faster. I can’t get away with the things I did in college,” she said. “Everyone is just as good and just as smart. It takes me a little bit extra.”

Angel was able to spend time with her grandmother this past week and Taylor was able to see her granddaughter play against the Washington Mystics. McCoughtry reminisced about good times in Franklin.

“I love Franklin. It’s my second home, and I love to go back. It’s laid back. I can clear my mind and relax,” she said.