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UConn WBB Weekly: Appreciation for Tina Charles

Though Charles is arguably the greatest post player in program history, she doesn’t always get the respect she deserves.

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Welcome to the UConn WBB Weekly, a recap of everything that happened in the world of UConn women’s basketball over the past week.

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From the UConn WBB Weekly Premium:

Though UConn’s bigs have come in all different forms, they each share a relatively similar skillset: Versatile scorers, good defenders and above-average passers. Incoming freshman Amari DeBerry checks those boxes as a prototypical UConn big.

From The UConn Blog:

Last week’s Weekly:

Other headlines

  • The NCAA is moving back the 3-point line in women’s college basketball from 20 feet, nine inches to the international distance of 22 feet, 1.75 inches — the same distance men’s college basketball uses. Her Hoop Stats break down the potential impact of the move.
  • Though Connecticut on the brink of allowing college athletes to profit off their name, image, and likeness, international student-athletes like Dorka Juhász and Nika Mühl could be left out. ESPN explains.

It’s time to give Tina Charles the respect she deserves

When the pandemic shut down the sports world and canceled the NCAA Tournament in March 2020, UConn women’s basketball decided to drum up their own March Madness fun by creating a 32-player, Best of the Best Bracket to determine the best player in program history.

Three No. 1 seeds were easy. Maya Moore, Breanna Stewart, and Diana Taurasi are widely considered the three best players in program history, though everyone has their own opinion about who’s on top.

The fourth No. 1 seed created a little more controversy. Tina Charles claimed the spot over the likes of Rebecca Lobo and Sue Bird, two of the most prominent former Huskies. Charles eventually met Lobo in the Elite Eight but fell by nearly two-thirds of the vote — 63.5% to 36.5% — a rather shocking margin considering Charles’ resume.

That’s not to knock Lobo, either. She might be UConn’s most important player ever as the first major recruit to pick Geno Auriemma and the Huskies and the star on the first national championship team in 1995. Lobo also maintains a high profile as ESPN’s lead women’s basketball analyst.

So while the voting differential may have been wider than it should’ve, there’s still an argument to pick Lobo over Charles. But with Charles off to a torrid start with the Washington Mystics after opting out of the WNBA bubble last season, it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate just how great Charles’ entire career has been.

She’s best remembered for being one of the key forces on UConn’s 2009 and 2010 national championship teams — the only time anyone has gone undefeated in back-to-back seasons. Together with Moore, the Huskies won all but one game — the 2010 title game against Stanford — by double-digits.

That season, her senior year, Charles won the AP, USBWA, Naismith, Wooden, and Wade Player of the Year Awards, earned a spot on the WBCA All-American team for the second consecutive year, and took home Big East Player of the Year.

Charles was far from a one-year wonder. The No. 1 recruit in the country out of Christ the King High School in New York, she took UConn by storm in her first year, setting the freshman record for rebounds (296) and blocks (81) — records she still holds — while at the time finishing second in points (456) behind only Svetlana Abrosimova. Unsurprisingly, she won Big East Freshman of the Year.

After her four years in Storrs, Charles graduated with the most rebounds in program history (1,367) and second-most points (2,346, now fourth), double-doubles (52), and free throws (410, now fourth) along with the third-most blocks (304, now fifth) and third-highest field goal percentage (61.0%, now fourth).

Charles dominated from the moment she arrived in Storrs and hasn’t stopped since.

The Connecticut Sun took Charles No. 1 overall in the 2010 WNBA Draft and she unanimously won Rookie of the Year. She was the league MVP in 2012 and has been a five-time All-Star. On the international stage, Charles helped Team USA win gold in the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games as well.

So even though she may not be at the same level as Moore, Stewart, or Taurasi, Charles really isn’t that far off. She’s one of the greatest players ever to come through UConn — and the best true post player. While the Huskies haven’t been short on talent over the last 30 years, Charles deserves the respect and recognition that comes with being one of the best to ever do it.

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