|Zhao Shuang (R) of China vies with Angel McCoughtry during the women's basketball preliminary round match between China and the United States at the London 2012 Olympic Games at Basketball Arena on Aug. 5, 2012 in London.
Earlier this month Angel McCoughtry was practicing with her USA Basketball teammates in Annapolis, Maryland, not far from her hometown of Baltimore.
Now she is prepping her teammates for her second home of Istanbul, Turkey.
McCoughtry, a 6-foot-1 forward who helped Team USA to gold medals at the 2010 FIBA World Championship for Women and the London 2012 Olympic Games, plays professionally for Fenerbahҫe in Istanbul. The upcoming FIBA World Championship for Women, set for Sept. 27-Oct. 5, will be played in Turkey with the gold-medal game being held in the same arena where McCoughtry plays with her pro team.
“The people there love basketball, both for the men and the women,” McCoughtry said. “And I’m so excited to show my teammates around Turkey.
“Turkey is not just a land of camels and deserts,” she added, noting its hustle-bustle, big-city atmosphere. “I want to show my teammates everything, the Grand Bazaar and the bridge that connects Europe and Asia … it’s an amazing place.”
Following a practice at the U.S. Naval Academy, McCoughtry’s mouth was already watering for some Turkish meatballs and tea.
McCoughtry is one of 12 players who was named to the U.S. women’s world championship roster, a team that includes many decorated athletes such as three-time Olympic champions Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird. Bird is now the first four-time U.S. world championship team member.
Another teammate is center Tina Charles, a former WNBA MVP who has played with McCoughtry at the 2010 world championship and the 2012 Games. In addition to being in Turkey for this world championship, Charles recently signed to play alongside McCoughtry for Fenerbahҫe for the 2014-15 campaign.
“Tina’s crazy,” McCoughtry said with a laugh. “She’s so much fun. I can’t wait to play with her.”
“It’s a good financial decision for me,” Charles said of her Turkish team contract. “But I’m looking forward to playing with Angel there. The best part of playing overseas is that you get to play with friends.”
Back in 2009, the two were on opposing teams as Charles led UConn to the NCAA title against McCoughtry and her Louisville Cardinals. Charles scored 25 points and grabbed 19 rebounds as UConn beat the Cardinals, 76-54. McCoughtry led Lousiville with 23 points.
The coach at UConn then was Geno Auriemma, and he is happier to have McCoughtry on his bench rather than an opposing one. Auriemma, who continues to coach at UConn, guided both Charles and McCoughtry as U.S. teammates to gold medals at the 2010 worlds and the London Games.
Auriemma recently called McCoughtry one of his most “favorite players to coach” because of her passion for the game. Not only is she is force to be reckoned with on the court with her scoring and her toughness, but she also plays with an infectious enthusiasm.
McCoughtry has good reason for wanting to return to Turkey, aside from the meatballs and the shopping. She helped lead her pro team to a 14-0 record in EuroLeague regular-season play. Fener, as the team is known, finished runner-up in the league in 2013 and 2014.
McCoughtry enters her fifth season in Istanbul and averaged 14.4 points and 6.2 rebounds in EuroLeague play last season. Charles averaged 18.9 points and 10.2 rebounds to help Dynamo Moscow win the EuroCup title.
Before they can think about playing for the pro team in Turkey, they will focus on wearing their Team USA jerseys.
“I am so excited to play in our arena again and am so excited to be with Team USA over in Turkey,” McCoughtry said. “(The fans) are so excited. I just can’t wait for them to experience this.”
If the U.S. women win the gold medal in Turkey, it would mark the team’s ninth world championship title. It also would guarantee the U.S. a spot in the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games. McCoughtry, who experienced the Olympic Games in London, is already ready for a return trip.
“The Olympics were awesome,” McCoughtry said. “We got to win a gold medal and we got to party with LeBron (James) and Kobe (Bryant). I’m ready to go for 2016.”
Amy Rosewater is a freelance writer and editor for TeamUSA.org. A former sports reporter for The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, she covered her fifth Olympic Games in Sochi. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today.