Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

WNBA: Charles 39-0 Again To Win Rookie Vote

(Guru's note. There is a post above this one with some college tidbits)

By Mel Greenberg

UNCASVILLE, Conn. --
There must be something about being 39-0 that is rather attractive to Connecticut Sun center Tina Charles.

Her last two seasons of collegiate ball at the powerful University of Connecticut program resulted in two NCAA titles with each obtained via perfect 39-0 records.

On Tuesday the native New Yorker was declared perfect again.

Charles, the overall No. 1 pick of last April's draft, was an unanimous 39-0 choice by the media for the WNBA rookie of the year honor that had no suspense involved considering she won every rookie of the month award. She set a slew of rebounding records for the league and franchise with one of the most notable being her accumulation of 22 double doubles through points and rebounds.

Yet there was one place Charles was not perfect -- the Sun finished 17-17 in fifth place missing the playoffs for the second straight season.

Had Connecticut still been alive, the presentation would have been done at a Sun playoff home game instead of Tuesday's stand-alone event that included WNBA president Donna Orender at a theater inside the Mohegan Sun casino-entertainment complex.

Charles was emphatic in her acceptance remarks that if there is a rebound to really chase after, it is next season to ensure the Sun will still be alive at this point in time contending for conference and WNBA titles.

"It was definitely a lot of fun this year," Charles said. "But if anybody knows me they know I don't like these kind of things (individual ceremonies) so hopefully next year we will be playing in the playoffs."

Besides Charles, Kelsey Griffin, another Sun newcomer and former Nebraska star, was named to the all-rookie team along with former Rutgers star Epiphanny Prince of the Chicago Sky, former Virginia star Monica Wright of the Minnesota Lynx, and Kalana Greene, another former UConn star who is with the New York Liberty.

League coaches selected the rookie squad -- none were allowed to vote for their own players. Charles and Wright each received 11 votes, while Greene, Griffin, and Prince each got 10.

Prince made news a year ago when she announced she was bypassing her senior season at Rutgers to go overseas in Euorpe to better prepare herself for a career in the WNBA. The Sky, which finished last this season, selected her in the first round.

The Sun was able to take Charles following an offseason deal with Minnesota, sending the Lynx All-Star Lindsay Whalen, a native of the Twin Cities, and the second overall pick for former UConn star Renee Montgomery, a second-year pro, and the No. 1 pick.

Minnesota took Wright with that No. 2 overall pick. The Lynx then drafted Griffin with the third overall pick and then did business with the Sun again by dealing Griffin to Connecticut for the Sun's first-round pick in 2011.

At the time no one ever thought the Sun wouldn't be a playoff team, considering its acquistions that included former Olympian Kara Lawson, who starred at Tennessee.

"It is the ultimate compliment to a player when she is more about winning than anything else," Sun coach Mike Thibault said Tuesday. "When we made the decision we did (the trade), we knew first and foremost irregardless of statistics and anything else that we were getting a winner.

"She is the cornerstone of what we are going to do over the next how many years to have a consistent winner here in Connecticut," Thibault said. "You can see how she is an unselfish player and she has the tenancity -- you don't get the number of rebounds that she has (WNBA record 398) without having a will about you.

"I know, as she said, over the next few years the kind of press conferences we are looking forward to are the ones where we are celebrating playoff victories. And she will be a huge leader in that area.

"I am so proud of what she did. I know it's frustrating with us not meeting some of our expectations but watching her stand up in front of you and accept this award, she's the beacon in going ahead for all the right expectations that we do have."

Charles is enjoying a brief rest before reuniting with her college coach -- Geno Auriemma -- to train with the USA Basketball national team that will compete later this month for the FIBA World Championship in the Czech Republic.

She will also play in Russia in the offseason.

The effect of the Sun's fifth-place finish with a record better than any team in the Western Conference except regular season champion Seattle (28-6) is that Minnesota, which did not make the playoffs, now has an extra chance to land next season's No. 1 pick, likely to be another UConn star -- highly coveted senior Maya Moore.

While thanks were offered across the board besides those from Charles -- "When I'm playing I'm playing for everyone who has ever been associated with my life and career" -- none went to Minnesota for agreeing to the deal, not that any should be expected.

But then again, when the ping pong balls go in play this winter to determine the draft order at the top, it is Connecticut which could be on the receiving end of thanks from Minnesota.

A Touch of Orange Remains

When Kara Lawson played for the former Sacramento Monarchs, she got a share of boos from the highly partisan crowd at Sun games because of their love for the collegiate Huskies and her past affiliation with the Volunteers who helped create the No. 1 rivalry in the women's game until Hall of Fame coach Pst Summitt cancelled the series in the spring of 2007.

After Lawson signed as a free agent with the WNBA Connecticut team in the offseason, she immediately won the hearts of the Sun faithful.

Lawson also broadcasts women's collegiate games for ESPN in the winter.

Apparently past loyalties still exist, however.

Asked who she likes between the Indiana Fever and New York Liberty in Wednesday night's decisive Game 3 in Madison Square Garden Wednesday night to determine the other Eastern Conference finalist to play Atlanta, Lawson begged off initially as a tough one to call.

But then she had added, "If anything, i have to go with Tamika."

That reference was to Fever post player Tamika Catchings, a frontrunning MVP csndidate who is one of Tennessee's all-time stars.

Upon Further Review

Several weeks ago following the conclusion of the key Washington Mystics-New York Liberty game in the nation's capital won by Washington to go on and take the East No. 1 seed, there appeared to be some commotion between the two teams on the floor.

Media on press row seated near the socialities thought, but couldn't be sure, a punch might have been attempted by someone, which if attempted would mean an immediate one game suspension. New York star Cappie Pondexter was observed to be pulled twice from the fray by her teammates.

Some confusion occurred later because the media was unable to send a pool reporter to get some reaction from the officials who worked the game.

In a conversation with a WNBA source this week, it was indicated that officials are not allowed to commment after a game. A pool reporter can visit only in a situation involving how a rules interpretation might have been applied to a situation.

Furthermore if the officials grabbed their jackets and left once the game was over they can no longer get involved because they would not have seen it.

The league could still issue a punishment if video is available showing someone throwing a punch.

It was also noted that Phoenix's Diana Taurasi got suspended once because she made an inappropriate remark to an official when both were walking off the floor.

Thriller In the Garden

After defending Eastern Conference champion Indiana evened the semifinals series with New York at 1-1 Sunday in Indianapolis, Fever coach Lin Dunn referred to Wednesday's matchup with the Liberty in Madison Square Garden in Manhattan to determine who advances as "World War III."

The game at 7:30 p.m. will be intriguing considering that both Fever star Tamika Catchings and Liberty star Cappie Pondexter along with Seattle's Lauren Jackson are considered the top threats to win the WNBA's MVP award.

A date to name the winner has yet to be set. The deadline for the votes from the media panel was Monday a week ago.

As previously mentioned, if New York loses Wednesday night, the Liberty will say adieu to the Garden as a home court the next three summers because of renovations and will play across the Hudson River at the Prudential Center, aka The Rock, in Newark, N.J.

The Liberty hasn't made an official announcement but the New York Daily News reported the move several weeks ago citing a reliable source outside Liberty and other WNBA circles.

Also, a New York loss means Liberty coach Anne Donovan will be on her way, as previously announced before the season, to take full charge of Seton Hall's women's program, also across the Hudson in South Orange near Newark.

That's it until Wednesday night in New York.

-- Mel

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