The Washington Mystics took the early Eastern Conference lead in the WNBA preseason this week with back-to-back wins over the New York Liberty and the Chicago Sky. The Phoenix Mercury also looked strong in a 96-52 blowout against Japan's Sunflowers with rookie Alexis Gray-Lawson scoring 16 points, although they will face a tough challenge against Candace Parker and the Los Angeles Sparks on Saturday.
Outside the fray and on the other side of the Atlantic, the Atlanta Dream have been training in Manchester, England, looking to reach the finals once again and prove that this year they won't settle for second best. The Huffington Post caught up with Atlanta's Angel McCoughtry, the WNBA's 2009 Rookie of the Year, on training camp and the team's world travel. Her words have been edited and condensed below.
As any professional athlete will tell you, training camp is just as mentally tough as it is physically demanding. Training camp means long hours and hard work and most of it is competing against and pushing each other. It's about the little things: getting in shape, learning plays, getting focused and instilling discipline. But the most important thing is the bond you develop with your teammates. Every one of us is living and breathing basketball for two weeks straight. You learn about each other and I can already see our team has great chemistry. That's going to show on the court too.
This year is extra special for my team, the Atlanta Dream, because instead of boarding a flight to another WNBA city for a preseason game, we are about to "hop across the pond" as they say, to visit Manchester, England. I'm excited and honored to take part in the first ever WNBA game in Europe. Being part of such an experience is amazing. We are playing the Great Britain women's national team so it's going to be a great way to give the fans a preview before the 2012 Olympics in London.
With the success of international players in the NBA like Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash and Tony Parker, people are starting to take notice. But what a lot of people don't realize is the popularity of women's basketball across the world. It really is a global game.
That's definitely true of our Atlanta Dream team. Our starting lineup covers the globe. Lindsey and I play together for USA Basketball, Izi and Erika grew up playing together in Brazil and Sancho Lyttle is from the West Indies and competes for Spain's national team. Having teammates from all over the world broadens your perspective. I love learning about the different cultures. We are always teaching each other different phrases and sharing stories about our travels.
Basketball has given me the opportunity to see the world. When I started playing as a little girl in Baltimore, Maryland, I never imagined the places basketball would take me. It took me on detours to the Patterson School in North Carolina to focus on my education. It took me on unknown paths to the University of Louisville where I never imagined I would find a home away from home. And finally it took me to my dream of playing professionally to Atlanta where I literally followed my Dream.
Basketball has taken me places I never thought I could go, even some I couldn't have pointed out on a map. I've been to Russia, Czech Republic, Canada and Brazil with USA Basketball. After my rookie season in the WNBA, I packed my bags and played in Kosice, Slovakia. This past offseason I lived in Istanbul, Turkey. We traveled all over Europe to Italy, Hungary, Poland, Russia, Spain and France. How many people can say that at age 24?
For some of my teammates, Manchester will be their first time out of the country. For me, it will still feel that way. It's going to be special to spend five days in England with my teammates, knowing that we are part of history. Make sure you tune in to NBA TV this Sunday at noon ET to be there with us.