Tina Charles chasing WNBA title with Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury

Tina Charles chasing WNBA title with Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury

As former UConn women’s basketball star Tina Charles begins her 12th WNBA season this summer, she’s still on the hunt for her first title.

She’ll make her title quest in Phoenix alongside fellow former Huskies Kia Nurse and Diana Taurasi.

“It’s been great being here, to finally get here, see everything all the way through, to be under Vanessa (Nygaard), the coaching staff, be around players, feels great just to get up and down, really happy to be here, “Charles said following the team’s training camp practice Thursday afternoon.

After competing for the Washington Mystics in 2021, Charles signed with Phoenix during the offseason on a one-year contract. Last season, the four-time WNBA All-Star led the league with 23.4 points per game.

With 6-foot-9 Brittney Griner still detained in Russia, Charles (6-3) is expected to become the team’s primary post player this season until Griner’s return.

“Offensively, obviously, we’re gonna look different without BG for sure, at least for the time being and we also still have some really great players,” first-year Mercury coach Vanessa Nygaard said. “I mean, Tina is a great, great addition. She is a bucket, she’s the leading scorer in the league last year and can do so much.”

Charles, the 2012 WNBA MVP, was fourth in the league last year with 9.6 rebounds. She led Washington in points, rebounds, blocks (0.9) and minutes (33.3) per game. She was returning to the league after sitting out the 2020 season due to medical reasons amid the pandemic.

The 33-year-old credits her dominance in the post, and overall skill, to her days at UConn. Charles led the Huskies to back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010. She is still UConn’s all-time leading rebounder (1,367) and is fourth in points (2,346).

“I definitely have to give credit to coach (Geno) Auriemma, that’s where it all started for me,” she said. “Just the accountability that he put on me and how important it was for me to rebound the basketball. So, just me having that will and having that heart, it’s just my job as a post player. When you’re the four or the five that’s what you’re supposed to do. I try to do everything that I can in the things I’m supposed to do.”

Charles and Taurasi shared the court this past summer in Tokyo at the 2020 Olympics. The two — along with Sue Bird, Napheesa Collier and Breanna Stewart — led Team USA to its record-seventh straight gold medal. As teammates, Charles and Taurasi have earned three Olympic gold medals and three FIBA ​​World Cup gold medals. This is the first time they’ll share the court as teammates in the WNBA.

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