Q+A: Tina Charles
The MVP candidate raps on Geno Auriemma, winning a Gold medal and more.
by Christian Mordi / @mordi_thecomeup
I walked into the arena three hours before game time, looking to bask in the ambiance of the Prudential Center, maybe even catch a quick bite to eat before the game. Instead, the only thing I caught was a glimpse of greatness in the post.
Tina Charles handled her pre-game workout as if this was her last—battling hard as if facing a live opponent. Charles displayed smooth footwork and a soft touch on each move.
This is what greats do—long days on the court, even longer nights studying film. It’s no surprise Charles has been so dominant this year, making a push toward her first MVP trophy. Her game was put on display for the world to see this summer, as she played for Team USA during the Olympics and brought home the Gold.
SLAMonline got the chance to link up with the UConn alum to discuss her time with Team USA, her post game, thoughts on whether coach Geno Auriemma will leave UConn and more.
SLAM: Tina, you are currently coming back from representing USA in the Olympics. You played with Candace Parker, Syl Fowles and other top-tier veteran bigs. What can you take from that experience—any tricks of the trade, words of advice?
Tina Charles: No “tricks of the trade” were really given, but the three of us are very different players. Candace has a very unique skill set, and Syl is just a dominant force down low. We knew if we all did our jobs and played up to our potential, we could win the Gold medal.
SLAM: You played for Geno, your former college coach, in London. Tell us a little bit about his coaching dynamic with your Olympic team this year. What did you feel he implemented with his scheme that helped push you ladies?
TC: Having Geno coach the team was a key factor to our success. He was very patient with us, versus how he is with his UConn team. He understood we were pros and went to the veterans sometimes for opinions on different things. There was a respect level, and I think that was key to us getting better each game, which led to the Gold.
SLAM: Do you think that with all of his accolades in women’s basketball, that Geno may take his game to the NBA level some time soon?
TC: Nah, I think he has a comfort level on the collegiate level. I think what Geno does is great, how he can get a player to grow so much within four years. I think the role model he is for girls basketball and for young coaches, staying at UConn is key.
SLAM: I have been writing SLAMonline’s WNBA MVP Race column this season, and you have been top two or three each week since day one. I always say year three is when you know if a player really has it, and you have taken nice strides in your game this year. What can you attribute to your success this year?
TC: I think it is my approach to the game this year—just knowing what we are capable of getting done. As individuals, we are a young team and we keep getting better, so I know if I can continue to grow as a player, it will be a help to the team. If this can happen, we have a better chance at a playoff game in comparison to none last year. Our goal is to win a championship.
SLAM: Many say it’s a three-way race in between you, Candace and Fowles. Tell us who is one of your hardest covers in the league, if it is one of them, and what makes you one of the best post defenders in the league.
TC: At this point, I have learned not to focus really on what they are going to do, I just play my game. I prepare properly, watch film and I know that coach will put us in the right place to be successful.
SLAM: You have improved from the line this year as well, shooting close to 80 percent. Was focus, conditioning and reps at the line something you focused on this offseason after shooting 68 last year?
TC: I think it’s a matter of me just being disciplined this year at the line. Being in good condition also helps. I think when you get tired in the game, that can get to your form. So being in shape and being disciplined has helped me remain consistent this year.
SLAM: You are also grabbing 4 offensive rebounds a game, that’s top-three in the league. What can you attribute to your success on the boards this year?
TC: It comes down to heart, in my opinion. If you want it, you have to go after it. You have to be willing to do anything possible within the rules to get every rebound. There are crucial possessions in which we need the board to create an opportunity or stop the other team from getting one, so I just take pride in being that player for my team.
SLAM: You are known as a winner. Ranked No. 1 nationally while at Christ The King in HS, two undefeated National Championships, and now you’re looking to continue those ways for the Sun. What do you feel will be a key factor in taking this team to another level in the second half of this season and postseason?
TC: Well, I just would like in the second half for us to remain patient and for everyone to continue to get better. I would like us to focus on eliminating turnovers and learning how to build on leads, not getting too comfortable and allowing teams to get back in the game. We need to value every possession within a game.
SLAM: Which player on this team has stepped up big and pushed you to another level this year?
TC: Kara Lawson has stepped up big this year. This is one of her best years, I am really happy for her and the way she has been shooting.
SLAM: Is this the year for the Sun?
TC: Yeah, I believe this is the year for the Sun to take it to another level.