McCoughtry continues comeback against her old team

Angel McCoughtry kissing KFC Yum! Center floor – Cindy Rice Shelton photo

Former UofL star Angel McCoughtry is closely guarded by current favorite Jazmine Jones under the watchful eyes of Coach Jeff Walz in the Team USA vs. Louisville exhibition game. Jones led Louisville in scoring with 12 points (Mike DeZarn photo).
Angel McCoughtry applauds the crowd of 12,008 who welcomed her back to Louisville on Sunday (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Almost 10 years after she was the No. 1 draft pick of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, Angel McCoughtry returned as a contender for a Team USA position against her former University of Louisville basketball team on Sunday.

An important game for numerous reasons for McCoughtry, including the fact that she had led the Cardinals to their first NCAA Final Four appearance during her senior year. But there’s more at stake this year because she is seeking a comeback after injuring a knee in 2018 season. She did not see any action during the 2019 season.

Dan Evans with two of her 10 points against Team USA. She also had six assists and five rebounds (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Louisville still occupies a strong place in McCoughtry’s heart. She left to a standing ovation from the crowd of 12,008 after scoring 11 points in 21 minutes, kneeling to plant a kiss on the KFC Yum! Center floor. Far from certain that she will make the Olympic team but McCoughtry was ecstatic playing against her old team.

“What a great experience. The arena was full of people, and that just shows you how far we’ve come,” said McCoughtry. “Louisville looks great and I expect them to go deep in the tournament. They play so fast and I think that’s why they beat a lot of teams.”‘

The Cardinals scored 10 unanswered points midway through the opening quarter and a jumper by Mykasa Robinson put them up 19-13.  Far too much talent on the WNBA squad, however, catching up in the second quarter and putting the game out of reach in the third quarter. Final score: Team USA 97, Louisville 54.

Jazmine Jones finished with 12 points for UofL on 4-9 shooting, while Dana Evans had  10 points and six assists .

A timely learning experience for the Cardinals who are 21-1 overall and 10-0 in the ACC.  The beating a reminder that the UofL women had much room to improve as they prepare for a showdown against Florida State (18-4, 7-4) on Thursday at the Yum! Center.

The teams got together at center court after the celebrate top flight women’s basketball in Louisville (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Jeff Walz: Great expectations for Louisville women’s basketball

Jeff Walz is engulfed by media prior to UofL women's basketball tipoff luncheon.
Jeff Walz is engulfed by media prior to the UofL women’s basketball tipoff luncheon at the Downtown Marriott.

A crowd of more than 650 people showed up for the 2015 tip-off luncheon for the University of Louisville women’s basketball team Wednesday at the Downtown Marriott. Quite a contrast from a few years ago when the event was drawing maybe 300 fans.

Coach Jeff Walz, entering his ninth season at UofL, acknowledging the growing support, along with the sense of anticipation for the upcoming season.  “It’s all about expectations,” he told the media before lunch. “When I first got here we were talking about getting past the second round in the NCAA,” he said. “Now we’re talking about Final Fours and winning championships. I’m really proud of where this program is now but we’re not satisfied.”

During his first eight seasons, Walz has a 208-77 won-lost record. His teams have been to the Sweet 16 six times and have finished as national runner-up twice while turning out five WNBA draft picks, including Angel McCoughtry and Shoni Schimmel.

Walz said recruiting success has made it possible to raise expectations. “In order to have expectations, you have to have great players. You can coach as much as you want, but if you don’t have players who can perform it really doesn’t matter.”

His 2015 recruiting class includes five players ranked among the top 50 in the country, including Asia Durr, considered among the best in the class. It also includes 6-foot-3 Samantha Fuering, 6-foot-4 Erin DeGrate, Taja Cole and Brianna Jones.

Another addition is Briahanna Jackson, an outstanding transfer guard from Central Florida University, who was introduced publicly for the first time during the luncheon. She’s good enough to possibly nail down a starting spot.

“We have a wonderful group of young women,” he said during the luncheon. “This has been one of the most enjoyable pre-seasons that I have had.  They work hard, they have a great sense of humor and they care about each other. You’re going to be excited about this group.”

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Walz also took a moment to express his appreciation to Tom Jurich for hiring him. “We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Tom Jurich giving me this opportunity nine years ago,” he said.

Alluding to his one-time stuttering challenge, Walz said “it took some courage for Tom to hire me. This (making public speeches) was something I didn’t do very well, speaking in front of people, speaking to the media. It’s part of the job. You have to go out there and sell your product and sell your university.

“I’m grateful to Tom for giving the opportunity. It’s hard to believe I’m going on year nine. I plan on being here for many more years.”

Shoni Schimmel head and shoulders above in a game of all-stars

What a show it was, one for the record books.

Shoni Schimmel hasn’t even earned a starting spot on her own team yet, but Saturday she was the undisputed Most Valuable Player in the WNBA all-star game, leading the East to a 126-125 win over the West.soco5hn0drav7h9q1n8ekf3nj6112013.png-final

There Shoni was again, with that familiar behind-the-shoulder flip over 6-foot-8 Britney Griner in the fourth quarter. Making it look easy, following an earlier layup against the same player.

The former All-American at the University of Louisville, now a backup guard for the Atlanta Dream, now owns the all-star game record with 29 points, collecting 11 field goals, including seven of 16 three-point attempts. She also handed out eight assists, including two to Angel McCoughtry another former UofL star who had 13 points.

Twenty five of those points came in the second half, including nine in the third quarter, nine in the fourth, and seven more in overtime.

Seventeen members of her direct and extended family were in the crowd of 14,486 at Phoenix, as well as hundreds of other Native Americans, including many who followed Shoni to games during her years at UofL.

Any reservations (no pun intended) Atlanta Coach Michael Cooper, who also happened to be the East coach, may have had about inserting Shoni Schimmel into his own team’s starting lineup should have been dispelled after her latest performance.

Shoni Schimmel settles in quickly at Atlanta

Shoni Schimmel couldn’t have gotten off to any better start in her debut in the Women’s National Basketball Association, scoring 26 points and making 21 assists in her first two games.

Meanwhile, Angel McCoughtry, another former University of Louisville All American, is leading the league in scoring with 24 points per game.  Their team is undefeated after two games.

The Dream will celebrate Native American Night on Friday, May 30 when it hosts Seattle in honor of Shoni who grew up on the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Oregon.

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Asia Taylor has averaged just under nine minutes in two games with the Minnesota Lynx, averaging two points per game.

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The Los Angeles Sparks cut former U of L standout Antonita Slaughter and the Connecticut Sun waived former University of Kentucky center DeNesha Stallworth.

Documentary in the works on Angel McCoughtry

Coming soon a TV movie/documentary featuring Angel McCoughtry.

That’s the word from Stephen Philms, a Atlanta-based creative director, who was in McCoughtry’s entourage during her Louisville homecoming this week. Philms said the production will trace her life from a youngster in Baltimore, through her career with the University of Louisville women’s basketball team and on to the Atlanta Dream.

Then, of course, there’s her basketball in Turkey during the off season and the upcoming Olympics. Expect the production to also include some of McCoughtry’s music. She writes and sings as well, you know.

“We’re in the early stages and there’s lot of work ahead,” he said. “She’s had a fascinating life, overcoming many challenges with exceptional commitment and talents.”

Also in McCoughtry’s entourage was Ilene Hauser, a marketing representative from NIKE, who was assisting with media relations during Angel’s induction into the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame.

“Angel is one of three players on the Atlanta Dream with a NIKE contract,” said Hauser. “We take an active interest in her career.”

And, yes, they are acquainted with World Wide Wes.