The star forward for the Atlanta Dream headlined an open practice at Carrollton High School as part of the team’s “Take the Show on the Road” tour, which was a promotion put on by the Dream where they’ve traveled to six different high schools throughout the state over the course of the season and held court in front of the fans free of charge.
“It’s been fun. The kids really make it fun. You love it when they’re into the game and they’re cheering when you make a shot or a defensive stop. So it’s just a lot of fun to have them here to watch us,” said McCoughtry, who was part of the United States women’s national basketball team that won a gold medal in the 2012 Olympic Games in London this past summer. “I know they don’t get that many opportunities for people they look up to that come to their area, so it’s good to come and give them a little show.”
The two-time defending Eastern Conference champions practiced for roughly an hour and a half and then stuck around to sign autographs for the fans on Monday evening, something Dream head coach Fred Williams said has been a great way to reach out to their fan base on a more personal level.
“Coming out [Monday] and sharing in the community, with the Atlanta Dream, that’s what it’s all about,” Williams said. “We’ve done so many ‘Show on the Road’ type situations this season for various schools and programs, we’re looking to continue to do that in the future.”
Carrollton High School girls basketball coach Shon Thomaston and his Lady Trojan squad served as the host to the event, and he said it couldn’t have gone any better.
“Yeah, it was just a great event. An awesome event. Honestly, I was just sitting over here away from everybody and watching the crowd interaction with everything that went on. I expected great things, but it turned out even better than I expected just because of the interaction with the crowd and everything that was happening,” Thomaston said.
Thomaston said it was interesting to look on as his players watched some of the world’s best play on their home floor. It was also a nice teaching tool for his own personal use down the road.
“I could see my players over there finger-pointing all the players and trying to figure out who’s the best player. You know, I’m sitting over here looking at it a little bit differently than they are. I’m looking at the coach and seeing how he’s interacting with everybody. Honestly, it’s just a learning experience for me,” Thomaston said.
The open practice created a different environment for the players, as well, straying away from the typical quiet workout in their own facility.
“When you get into it, every drill is so intense because they want to do well in front of their fans. The fans in the stands, they like to cheer and stuff. So it’s really like a game atmosphere for the full two hours,” Williams said.
With only two regular-season games left on the schedule, the Dream are focused on a strong finish and hoping to take some momentum into the postseason.
“Our game plan right now is just to go out and practice hard and play hard these last two games,” Williams said. “I feel really good about them. As long as they come out and do the little things like passing the ball — we’re averaging about 20 assists a game, which is kind of unheard of for a lot of teams — we’re getting much better with our passing and we’re rebounding pretty well.”
Of course, McCoughtry enjoyed a summer she’ll never forget in being a part of the gold medal team in London. The former University of Louisville standout described it as the “best experience of her life.”
“You know, it was amazing just to meet so many people and watch sports that I didn’t even know existed. So it was a great experience and I’m glad I could bring back the gold for the state of Georgia for people to see,” McCoughtry said.
And for the fans — both young and old — in attendance on Monday night, they got a first-hand taste of how the best of the best polish their skills inside the energized atmosphere Carrollton provided the Dream for a few hours.
“No doubt — the best group of athletes to ever grace this gym — no doubt about it. It was really amazing to see women like that, and it gives you a greater appreciation for female athletes when you see them perform at that level. That’s not something you’re going to see on an everyday basis,” Thomaston said. “You’ve got a gold medalist on the floor. Not many people can say they’ve had that on their court. It’s just a blessing to Carrollton High School and the city to enjoy something like this. Just an awesome experience.”