WASHINGTON (AP) -- Angel McCoughtry wasn't having much fun during the first half of her rookie season. She wasn't playing a lot and was struggling on offense.
In fact, she almost gave up playing basketball.
It all changed for the No. 1 draft pick when she cracked the starting lineup. McCoughtry regained her confidence and helped lead the Atlanta Dream to a remarkable turnaround, making the playoffs after winning only four games in their inaugural season.
Her play was rewarded Thursday when McCoughtry was voted the WNBA rookie of the year.
"It means so much," she said after receiving the award at U.S. women's basketball training camp. "I was just thinking back how I was really struggling, I wasn't playing a lot, I was ready to quit. That's how frustrated I was. I had lost a lot of confidence in myself. I had to mentally get myself back. When I started having fun I started playing my game.
"It goes to show you that if you keep doing something you love and stick with it through the good and the bad, good things can come out of it."
McCoughtry received 27 votes from members of the media. Runner-up DeWanna Bonner, who has helped Phoenix reach the WNBA finals, got nine votes.
"Once I started, Coach (Marynell) Meadors gained confidence in me and saw that I could play," McCoughtry said.
Meadors was later honored as the league's coach of the year, after orchestrating the Dream's 14-game improvement from last season, the second-biggest turnaround in league history. Meadors received 30 votes, while Indiana's Linn Dunn finished second with six.
McCoughtry, who led rookies with 12.8 points and 2.2 steals, is among 23 players in Washington who are vying for a spot in the national team pool.
The players made a circle and former rookie of the year winner Seimone Augustus presented the rookie of the year trophy to McCoughtry, who had a huge smile on her face. Then, U.S. coach Geno Auriemma had a little fun with the Louisville graduate, who he had chided earlier in practice for being a lazy defender when she's guarding the basketball.
Auriemma jokingly presented McCoughtry with a box that contained a national championship ring from this year, when his UConn team beat McCoughtry and Louisville. The coach quickly pulled the box back and smiled, reminding her who won the title game.
McCoughtry will formally receive the rookie of the year award on Sunday, when the U.S. team has an open practice for fans at American University.