Tina Charles has had a lengthy and storied professional basketball career, having been selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 WNBA draft and playing consistently overseas since 2011.
Of all her years playing, one season abroad stands out for Charles — her time in Istanbul, Turkey, during the 2011-2012 offseason.
“One of my favorite years was playing for Galatasaray,” Charles told USWNT star Kelley O’Hara on the Just Women’s Sports podcast. “I was able to play with Ticha Penicheiro, Epiphanny Prince, Sylvia Fowles, and Diana [Taurasi].”
Sharing the court with Taurasi, in particular, served as a turning point for Charles in her career. Charles had just graduated from UConn in 2010 as the program’s all-time leading scorer. Taurasi previously won three NCAA titles at UConn from 2002-2004.
“Being able to play alongside Diana for that length of time, for a full season, I want to say that’s what changed everything for me.”
Charles equates Taurasi’s relentless attitude to that of the late Kobe Bryant, a friend of Taurasi’s, saying she has that “Mamba Mentality.”
“To see how she approached the game — who Diana is in the WNBA is the same way how she is overseas, which is just a killer,” said Charles. “The way she practiced hard all the time, how accountable she was for her teammates, and calling us out on what we weren’t doing.”
Playing alongside Taurasi, Charles says, was “very rewarding” for her and her evolution as a player. In 2012, Charles was named the MVP of the WNBA in just her second professional season.
Charles’ time abroad wasn’t all work though — the WNBA star says she and her teammates had some fun too.
“Being able to go to brunch, having our own car, being able to go to dinner, just hang out,” Charles recalls of her downtime with Taurasi and other teammates in Turkey.
Listen to Charles share more stories from her prolific career in the WNBA and abroad on the Just Women’s Sports podcast.