SUWANEE - There was a dramatically new atmosphere surrounding the Atlanta Dream as the WNBA franchise began their second preseason training camp Monday.
Among the most dramatic changes from their inaugural camp a year ago were the surroundings. The Dream had their first workout in a new practice facility - the Suwanee Sports Academy.
And with plenty of new faces in camp, including six-time WNBA All-Star Chamique Holdsclaw, things are looking up for the Dream after a nightmarish 4-30 inaugural season.
"We are (still) an expansion team," Dream coach Marynell Meadors said. "This is only our second year. But there's a process you kind of have to go through - it's usually four to five years - to build a team. I feel like maybe we've jumped from Year 1 to Year 4 with all the veterans we've brought in with Michelle Snow and Chamique Holdsclaw and Nikki Teasley. ... And then you've got some of the players who were here last year."
Of course, the most prominent new face in camp was Holdsclaw, the former University of Tennessee All-American who returns to the WNBA after a two-year "retirement" and stint playing overseas in Poland.
She is also no stranger to the Suwanee Sports Academy.
"I train here during the offseason," said the 6-foot-2 veteran, who has averaged 17.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game in nine WNBA seasons with the Washington Mystics and the Los Angeles Sparks. "It's great. It's the best in Georgia. The last year and a half, I've been training here. So, it's not new."
What is new for the Dream, however, is that the Suwanee Sports Academy will give them a regular practice home after having to move around depending on the availability of their home for games - Philips Arena in Atlanta.
"We were all over the place last year," Meadors said. "We know when (and where) we're going to practice. That really makes a big difference.
"The Suwanee Sports Academy is really going to be a great facility for us simply because we have so many courts we can work with. It's all basketball ... It's like having a home, and we didn't really have a (practice) home last year."
The Suwanee Sports Academy may also feel like home for several other Dream players, including recently signed free agent Coco Miller, who played just a few miles up Ga. Highway 316 at the University of Georgia.
"It's perfect for a training camp atmosphere," said Miller, who played the previous eight seasons with Washington and was a teammate of Holdsclaw's with the Mystics for four seasons. "Plus, I knew the area. It's awesome to be back. ... I actually haven't been back to Athens almost since college, but I know a lot of friends around here. So, it's good to see familiar faces."