Charles continues to add layers to her game since leaving UConn
When you look at the great players to come out of UConn, they do many of the things in the WNBA that they were able to accomplish at UConn. Players like Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore and Sue Bird have similar roles with the pro teams that they did at UConn and have all made tremendous strides to make an impact at the next level. However, they don't really get asked to do things that they didn't do with UConn. Charles, however, has added range on her jump shot, is so much better as a passer and can create her own shot. All of those factors combined with her outstanding play in the low post have helped her become the WNBA's leading scorer and rebounder heading into the Olympic break.
"My mental approach (is the key)," Charles said. "I believe if you have confidence you can do anything you want. I have the most confidence in my game and just the work that I put in and what we guys will see displayed on the court when you see me play."
Charles is clearly one of the best players in UConn history. She is the only player in program history with more than one season with at least 350 rebounds. She is the program's all-time leading rebound, ranks third in scoring and is fifth in blocked shots. Still, the layers that she has added to her game in recent years is really astounding.
"Professional basketball players are like any other professionals, they study, they get better and they add things to their repertoire," said U.S. and UConn coach Geno Auriemma. "Little by little she's better at scoring on the move, she is really good at using her body around the basket. When she came to UConn her freshman year, she rally didn't have that 15 footer and now it is like automatic. She has done what a professional is expected to do and that is why she is where she is."
Nobody on the national team has known Charles as long as Maya Moore. They played together on U.S. junior national teams before teaming up at UConn, combined to lead the Huskies to back to back national titles and have played in Olympics and FIBA World Championships together. After last night's win over Canada Moore weighed in on her ever improving former collegiate teammate.
"It has been a process for her starting when she was a freshman/sophomore at UConn working with CD (UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey), working with the coaches every day trying to find her way," Moore said. "Finally her junior year I think she broke through that wall at the Final Four when she was unstoppable, she was more of the Tina that we know now. Plus, she has added to her game. It is really fun to watch her evolve. It is inspiring to see my fellow teammate continuing to add things to her game."
BRIDGEPORT A WELCOMING HOST
A couple years ago Taurasi received glowing reports from Bird about the enthusiastic welcome the U.S. national team received from the fans at Webster Bank Arena.
Taurasi got to see it for herself last night. The fans gave UConn associate coach Chris Dailey a huge hand when she came onto the court and she isn't even working with the national team. Breanna Stewart received the loudest ovation among the players and I jokingly asked Auriemma if the response he received when he entered the arena was the most positive since a 2014 game at Baylor.
"When I heard ovation when I was walking in, I turned around to see if there was somebody behind me that they really liked and it was just me," Auriemma deadpanned. "I thought 'that was nice.' You usually don't get that, it was nice. The people down here have always been different, they have always so incredibly appreciative of our team and the fact we are down here playing, you bring the U.S. national team into a building it is special. It was special for the fans and special for the players."
The U.S. wraps up the USA Basketball Showcase with a game against Australia at Madison Square Garden tomorrow.