Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Business as usual for Charles

Tina Charles ushered in her professional career with 21 points, 9 rebounds, 3 steals and 6 blocks as she led the Connecticut Sun to an 86-79 win over the Atlanta Dream.

Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault was quick to point out that Charles didn't do her damage against Atlanta's dynamic frontcourt duo of Erika de Souza and Sancho Lyttle but on the other hand, UConn's all-time leading scorer and rebounder didn't have All-Star Asjha Jones and rising star Sandrine Gruda on the court to take some of the defensive attention off of her.

Charles' output is the most for a Connecticut Sun player in a preseason game since Nykesha Sales, whose UConn scoring record Charles broke, dropped 30 on Phoenix in 2006.

Charles took her impressive debut in stride.

"I was calm," Charles said. "I was fine, I came into the game like any other game I have been playing my senior year. I have teammates who have confidence in me and respect my game, know what I can do is a good thing and it makes me want to go out and perform my best. I feel like that is what I have been developing my game to be my whole life is to be a go-to player, somebody you can count on, somebody your teammate will have respect for and that is something that Coach (Geno) Auriemma taught me that it is not about the wins, it is about having the respect of your teammates."

Connecticut had four players score in double figures and three are rookies as fellow first-round pick Kelsey Griffin had 11 points and second-round selection Allison Hightower finished with 10. Second-year guard Renee Montgomery, acquired in a trade which netted the Sun the No. 1 overall pick in exchange for Lindsay Whalen and the second overall pick, had 12 points and four assists.

If it wasn't clear before, the roster situation is pretty easy to decipher for the Sun. Charles, Griffin, Hightower and Montgomery will be joined on the opening day roster by Jones, DeMya Walker, Kara Lawson, Kerri Gardin, Tan White and Anete Jekabsone-Zogota. Since Sandrine Gruda won't be reporting until early June, the Sun can keep one of its training camp invitees until Gruda is put on the active roster. If I was guessing, I would say it will come down to Pauline Love and Judie Lomax vying for that spot. Watching Thibault pull aside Love for an extended coaching session late in Tuesday's preseason game would lead me to deduce that Love, who had more than 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds in three seasons at Southern Mississippi, is a frontrunner to make the cut but I thought 2009 second-round pick Lyndra Littles was going to be around longer than she was in the 2009 training camp.

The Sun will have an open practice from 5-7 p.m. at St. Joseph College in West Hartford on Wednesday. Fans can watch the practice for free and there will be an autograph session following practice.

This is a busy week for Charles. She will take the last of her college exams on Wednesday, have another exhibition game on Friday and graduate on Sunday. Charles spoke about what figures to be an emotional day on Sunday as graduation day will be her final official act of what has been a special four years for her at UConn.

"It is going to be really important because my family has (had) my back my whole four years at UConn and they see the basketball aspect but now they get to take in what I have been doing academically," Charles said.

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