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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Charles, Hightower excited to play in All-Star game at home

Allison Hightower was undergoing treatment earlier this week when her Connecticut Sun teammate Tina Charles received the call from the WNBA's Renee Brown that she would be one of the Eastern Conference reserves for Saturday's WNBA All-Star Game.

Hightower felt a certain about of joy and pride at her teammate's special achievement but she was hardly astonished that the reigning WNBA MVP would be a member of the 11-member Eastern Conference squad.

When she made her way out of the training room, however, she was in for one of the biggest surprises of her life.

“I was in treatment, Tina received a call from Renee Brown and found out she made the team and about 10 minutes later I had a voice mail to call Renee Brown,” Hightower said on Thursday. “I was like 'oh my gosh, oh my God I made the team.'

“It is a very special moment and an amazing feeling. I feel honored to be selected as a reserve. It is a great opportunity and I am just truly blessed to know that hard work pays off.”

This will be Hightower’s first All-Star appearance and it is one four years in the making.

Hightower is averaging a career-high 13 points per game. She is shooting a career-high 41.4 percent from the floor but it is her ever-improving ability to connect from long range which has been the most noteworthy aspect as Hightower has gone from being a little-used reserve in her first two seasons to being an all-star guard. Hightower has 20 3-pointers in 16 games this season after making a total of 25 in 79 games during her first three seasons. Hightower shot 22 percent from 3-point range from 2010-12 but this season she ranks 12th in the WNBA with a 38.5 percent mark on 3-pointers.

“When they went out it was pretty tough but when one teammate goes down another one has to step up and that is what I have to do,” Hightower said. “I took advantage of the opportunity to play my game. I played a lot more point guard which I haven't done in the past but I definitely have learned a lot and have been able to create some things and I have been able to go out there and play with confidence.”

While this will be Hightower’s first time as an all-star, that is not the case with Charles. The WNBA considers this to be her second all-star game appearance as she started for the East in the 2011 game played in San Antonio. However, Charles was a member of the U.S. squad which played in the Stars at the Sun game at Mohegan Sun Arena in 2010.

“It was my first experience with the USA team,” Charles said. “Being with a group of women I looked up to over the years and watched in the WNBA and playing alongside some UConn alums, it was fun.”

Charles admits it will be extra special being able to play in front of the Connecticut fans that have supported her for the last eight season – the first four at UConn and the four years she has been in the WNBA.
Charles is averaging a career-high 18.3 points per game and has attempted more shots per game (18.9) than she has at any point during her WNBA career. Although her shot hasn’t been as consistent as in years’ past, she does have 12 double-doubles and six 20-point games.

“I think it is great because we have one of the nicest fan bases,” Charles said. “It is going to be a great atmosphere to be really intimate with the fans, there will still be the UConn following, what we get from UConn (fans) is what we get from people here and to be able to see Diana (Taurasi) and Maya (Moore) I think it is going to be great.”

Not only will Charles be one of three UConn alums in the game but being able to play alongside Hightower as well as long-time friend Epiphanny Prince of the Chicago Sky will make the weekend all the more memorable.

“It is going to be an emotional feeling,” Charles said. “I have known Allison since we were 13 years old just playing in Nike tournaments, AAU, Nike camps and different things like that. We have become friends over the years. She is a person that you can rely on. (She admires) her dedication and her perseverance not to give up on it. I think she realizes her talent and her success but I don't think it is going to stop there. I think she is going to keep going and try to maximize her potential.

“Me and Piph we grew up together playing on the streets of New York, playing in tournaments and rivals in high school and college so it is really good to see somebody you grew up with progress and to go through everything together so you can get to the pros.”

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
Friday
9:30 a.m.: Court dedication/WNBA FIT Clinic at Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School, New London (not open to general public)
3 p.m. East All-Star practice at Mohegan Sun Arena
4:15 p.m. West All-Star practice at Mohegan Sun Arena
Saturday
3:30 p.m. WNBA All-Star Game at Mohegan Sun Arena (Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2014 will be announced on ABC’s broadcast)



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