The Baltimore-born athlete developed a passion for basketball at a young age and was determined to make it in the sport. “My dad was a pastor and when I said: ‘I want to play in the church league’, he said: ‘No, it’s only for guys, but you can practise with us’.”
So she did… and quickly turned out to be the best player on the court.
Going on to represent teams in Turkey, Slovakia, Lebanon, Hungary and Russia, since 2009 she has been back home playing for the Atlanta Dream in the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), and was a member of the USA team that won Olympic gold at London 2012. And she picked up a second gold four years later, as the USA defeated Spain 101-72 in Rio.
“Growing up, did I ever imagine I would be an Olympian? Never!” she says. “Standing on the podium… was the best moment of my life.”
All too aware of the short-lived nature of a professional basketball career, McCoughtry started to pursue her entrepreneurial ambitions.
Ice cream had been her favourite comfort food ever since she was a child, and it seemed a perfect fit for a business venture. While playing basketball in Istanbul in Turkey, she visited several frozen dessert shops, and it was then that the idea for her own ice cream brand was born.
“McCoughtry’s Ice Cream” opened in Atlanta in January 2017, with ice cream made on the premises daily and a menu that features her signature dish, sweet potato waffle sundaes with butter pecan ice cream. She says the nerves she felt when opening her business were similar to those she experiences the night before a big game.
The WNBA athlete juggles training five/six days a week with being very much a hands-on presence at her ice cream shop. With her own name on the brand she is keen to leave nothing to chance, and luckily she has a shop manager she can completely rely on: her dad.
She has not put her sporting ambitions on ice. She plans to compete at one more Olympic Games, although she is already shaping her vision for life after Tokyo 2020.
“In five years time I want to be sitting with the top CEOs making decisions about either something in basketball or something in the ice cream industry,” she says.