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.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

WNBA Feature: On Her Career Game Night With New York, Tina Charles Discusses Leadership

By Rob Knox @knoxrob1

NEW YORK – Before transforming into a human cheat code, Tina Charles joked with her coaches, fired in jumpers with ease, and had fun chasing some of her own rebounds during an intense pregame shootaround session.

Charles also enjoyed herself a little while later by detonating for a career-best 36 points to help the New York Liberty rally from a second-half deficit to edge the Dallas Wings, 93-89, in an entertaining gem swollen with suspense at Madison Square Garden Friday night.

“Being in a new role, I try not to put too much focus on myself,” said Charles of her placid pregame demeanor. “I have to think about my teammates and I know they feed off of my energy and facial expressions. I just want to make sure that I keep doing that and giving positive vibes.”

This was the WNBA’s version of a hyped house party as fans waved arms side to side, jumped in the aisles and high-fived one another. There was plenty to be excited about from the loud music throughout the game to players on both sides making ridiculous shots look routine, trading baskets, breaking ankles, making sick moves, and combining for 13 3-pointers.

Leading a young team with six players of three years or less of experience Charles is also beginning to develop patience, something she admitted she’s hasn’t had a lot of during her sterling career.

“Somebody had to have patience with me when I was young,” Charles reflected. “A lot of it is mental. Having patience, being a leader, being positive, motivating and encouraging them are what I am doing now. Every year your role changes and every year the team is different so I am just rolling with it. I am learning (to have patience). I don’t mind being in this position.”

Charles’10th career 30-point game ended with a flourish as she tallied 11 points in the final quarter to repel several Dallas charges. Her effort raised her scoring average to 21.5 points, which is tied for the league lead with Brittney Griner of Phoenix.

With her scoring outburst, Charles upped her career point total to 4,230 moving past Vickie Johnson (4,228 points) and into 26th place on the all-time WNBA scoring list. She’s 16 rebounds away from becoming the 12th player in league history to grab at least 2,400 rebounds.

“I am just always in attack mode regardless of who I play against,” Charles said. “I know I mean a lot to this team. I know I definitely have to contribute on the offensive end and always on the defensive end.”

While Charles, who also grabbed 10 rebounds, treated the enthusiastic crowd to a memorable performance, she had plenty of help as the Liberty ended a two-game skid. Shevonte Zellous was special as well, complementing Charles’ effort with 27 crucial points on 9-of-15 shooting. It was the most points Zellous scored since joining the Liberty.

Charles and Zellous entered the game ranked second and fourth, respectively in the league’s net plus/minus leaders. Last night, Charles was a plus one and Zellous was plus 11. Charles credited Zellous with the second half turnaround as the Liberty outscored the Wings, 48-39.

“She’s the heart of the team,” Charles said of Zellous. “She motivated and challenged us especially at halftime. She came in expecting more from us. She saw the growth of our team over the past couple of practices. So the more demanding that she is of us, the more we keep going and feeding off of her.”

Charles is in the midst of one of her most dominating stretches of the early season. This was her fourth consecutive game of 20 points or more and her second double-double of the season.

Charles was more pleased with how Friday’s win was accomplished as several players contributed throughout the game. While Sugar Rodgers didn’t score her first points until seven seconds remained, a pair of free throws that provided the final margin, she led the Liberty with five assists.

Kiah Stokes was a beast for the Liberty, collecting a 13-point, 15-rebound double-double. Her persistence helped New York win the rebounding battle, 44-28. Playing a season-high 33 minutes, Bria Hartley looked sharp in finishing with 10 points.

Even though Charles and Zellous were a dynamite one-two punch, Dallas nearly survived thanks to a balanced effort that saw five players reach double figures led by Skylar Diggins-Smith’s 19 points. Theresa Plaisance added 18 points while rookie Allisha Gray scored 15 points for the Wings, who fell to 3-3 overall.

Charles and Zellous combined to score 18 of the Liberty’s 22 points in the fourth quarter. At times, it appeared as if they were playing their own personal version of the classic game H-O-R-S-E against each other as they fired shots from everywhere on the floor.

“All this week in practice my teammates and the coaching staff told me I needed to continue to be aggressive,” Zellous said. “I noticed the first couple games I wasn’t being as aggressive and helping my team but, it was just determination from myself that I need to do more in order for us to win.”

The Liberty took control of the game after trailing 64-57 with 5:10 left in the third quarter. Charles and Zellous combined for 12 points during a breathtakingly beautiful 14-2 burst to close the period. Stokes scored a layup to give the Liberty the lead for good, 65-64. Charles concluded the quarter with a fadeaway jumper that gave New York a 71-66 lead entering the final period.

Throughout the game, Charles placed her arms around the necks of teammates and whispered encouragement to them. She stays the same regardless of score and situation, but for the most part, Charles is taking pride in watching the Liberty come together as a team. With Kia Vaughn and Epiphanny Prince gone for at least a month, Charles isn’t concerned about the Liberty’s offense.

“We have great players on this team,” Charles said. “Sugar showed herself last year when (Prince) was out. Shevonte is a weapon for us and Bria as well. We have a bunch of guys who work hard in practice. Scoring is not something I am worried about with our team. It’s more so our growth and having a young group. This win is a big boost for us and we can take away lots of great things.”


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