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What’s next for WNBA star Tina Charles?

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Jewell Loyd made her feelings about Tina Charles clear after the Seattle Storm took Game 1 from Las Vegas in the WNBA semifinals on Aug. 28.

“Don’t forget about Tina Charles. Whatever happened early on, she’s with us and we know her capabilities. She’s a Hall of Famer,” Loyd told ESPN’s Holly Rowe in a postgame interview after Charles grabbed a franchise-record 18 rebounds and added 13 points in the upset win.

Though she played only 24 games for the Storm this season, forgetting about Charles is nearly impossible for anyone in the basketball world.

She’s made headlines on and off the court, and now that she’s an unrestricted free agent, there are sure to be many more. Let’s revisit Charles’ past to get a better sense of what might be in her future.

Background

Charles has long been heralded for her basketball skills. The center gained widespread recognition while playing for Christ the King High School in Queens, N.Y. — the same school Sue Bird and Chamique Holdsclaw attended years prior. There, she became a McDonald’s All-American and was tabbed as New York’s Miss Basketball.

Charles averaged 26.5 points, 14.8 rebounds and 5.2 blocks during her senior season before suiting up for UConn.

With the Huskies, Charles won national championships in 2009 and 2010 while playing with other future WNBA stars Maya Moore, Renee Montgomery and Tiffany Hayes. During her senior season, Charles broke Rebecca Lobo’s record to become UConn’s all-time leading rebounder.

Early WNBA years

After her success at UConn, the Connecticut Sun selected Charles first overall in the 2010 WNBA Draft. She was named Rookie of the Year and then league MVP two years later after averaging 18 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.4 blocks per game in 2012.

The Sun traded Charles before the 2014 season in an effort to secure draft picks, ultimately using their No. 4 pick on current player Alyssa Thomas. Charles then spent six seasons with the Liberty. While playing for her hometown team, the center was named to five All-Star teams and became the franchise’s all-time leading rebounder in 2019.

Before the 2020 season, Charles expressed her interest in leaving New York for Washington, and the Liberty ultimately traded Charles to the Mystics in a three-team deal on April 15.

“It was her choice,” Mystics head coach and general manager Mike Thibault told reporters at the time. “She took her time to think about it and informed New York a few weeks ago that she would like to be traded. And ever since that time, us and New York have been negotiating on the deal.”

She sat out the 2020 bubble season due to COVID-19 concerns related to her extrinsic asthma before posting 23.4 points (the best scoring average of her career) and 9.6 rebounds per game in 2021 — her lone season with Washington.

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Charles played just one full season for the Mystics. (Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

Washington Mystics

Mystics fans who hoped to see Charles and Elena Delle Donne play together never got their wish, as Delle Donne was plagued with injuries in 2021 and the two appeared in just one game together. Charles decided to look elsewhere in free agency and ended up signing a one-year, $108,000 deal with the Mercury.

Prior to the signing, Charles had enjoyed WNBA success at an individual level with eight All-Star appearances and nine All-WNBA First and Second Team selections, but not at a team level. In her 11 seasons, Charles had yet to win a title and had not made a semifinals appearance since 2015, when the Liberty lost to the Fever.

Wherever she landed next, Charles wanted it to be a team that could contend in the playoffs. With that criteria in mind, re-signing with the Mystics would have made sense, but neither party seemed interested in the option.

“I just know I need to win a championship before I retire,” Charles told the Washington Post last September. “Obviously, some decisions are going to have to be made, and I have to look into everything. I’m thankful for my year here and just to see how they do things, and [that] will definitely help moving forward.”

During a press conference in early February, Thibault expressed his wish to re-sign both Emma Meesseman (now with the Sky) and Myisha Hines-Allen (still with the Mystics) but never mentioned Charles’ name.

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Charles' midseason departure from the Mercury raised many questions.. (Tim Heitman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Phoenix Mercury

With the signing of Charles, the Mercury looked to have the makings of a super team after finishing 2021 as runners-up. They retained Diana Taurasi, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Kia Nurse and Brittney Griner and also signed Diamond DeShields, who was an important part of the Sky’s 2021 WNBA championship run.

But things quickly soured in Phoenix.

Griner was wrongfully detained on drug charges in Russia and never made an appearance for the Mercury in 2022, with the fight to get her home ongoing. Nurse also missed the season with a torn ACL.

The Mercury started the season 2-8 and in search of answers for their talented squad. During her tenure in Phoenix, Charles averaged 17.3 points and 7.3 rebounds while starting all 16 of her appearances.

On June 25, the relationship took another turn when Charles and Phoenix decided to go their separate ways via a contract divorce. Mercury GM Jim Pitman said in a statement at the time, “Due to circumstances both in and out of our control, our season has not gone according to our plan, and we will continue to pursue all avenues for improvement.”

Charles was with the Mercury for 18 games overall, but according to coach Vanessa Nygaard, she “chose” not to appear in the other two contests. ESPN reported that Charles had been unhappy with her role in Phoenix’s offense and had regularly expressed her desire to leave the team.

It also appeared that Charles had no love lost for her former coach after the contract divorce.

“I have a small window and there’s a way that I want to play, and with the time I have left playing, there’s a way I want to be coached,” Charles said after her decision to leave the team was made public.

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Charles started at center during Seattle's run to the 2022 WNBA semifinals. (David Becker/NBAE via Getty Images)

Seattle Storm and beyond

Three days after her contract divorce with the Mercury, Charles signed with the Storm, the team she had reportedly turned down in the offseason for Phoenix. The decision made sense for both parties at the time, as the Storm needed another rebounder and post presence to complement Ezi Magbegor, the team’s lone center. Meanwhile, Charles was still on a quest to win a title, and the Storm were in a good position to contend.

“I want to thrive in the right environment at this point in my career, being 13 years in,” Charles told ESPN last month. “A lot of other players maybe would have had time to settle in and see what the outcome of that was. Me being 33, I just knew what my goal was and it’s also important to know what process you want to go through to attain that goal.”

Charles performed well for the Storm, averaging 12.6 points and 7.4 blocks across 18 games as they made a run to the semifinals. She went quiet in Seattle’s final two games of the series, however, grabbing 14 total rebounds and scoring just two points in Game 4 on Tuesday. She also missed two free throws in the final 10 seconds of Game 3, leaving the door open for Las Vegas’ comeback.

Now that the Storm have been eliminated from playoff contention, coach Noelle Quinn and the organization turn to next season, one that is marked with uncertainty. Bird’s retirement is at the forefront of everyone’s minds, but after Loyd and Mercedes Russell, everyone else on the roster is a free agent. While Magbegor is a restricted free agent, everyone else — including Stewart — is unrestricted.

During exit interviews on Wednesday, Quinn expressed her desire to re-sign Stewart. Quinn also mentioned the importance of signing a point guard to replace the retired Bird and Briann January.

After that, the team will focus on rostering a mix of youth and experience, Quinn said.

So, how does Charles fit into that conversation?

Charles did not show up for her exit interview with media members on Wednesday — she was the only Storm player to not appear — but Quinn said she had a positive conversation with the veteran. She did not specify, however, whether or not the team would seek to re-sign her.

“I told her I appreciated the professionalism she brought,” Quinn said. “Obviously, we didn’t finish the ultimate goal, which is to win a championship, but I thought she conducted herself in a very positive manner throughout.”

If Stewart returns, between her and Loyd, the Storm will already have two key pieces in place for rebuilding a championship roster. Charles has expressed multiple times her desire to win a title before she retires, so from her perspective, the Storm could remain a good fit. Plus, Quinn reacted positively to Charles’ time with the Storm.

There seems to be no ill will between the two parties, so a return is possible, though neither the Storm nor Charles has spoken directly to the topic.

For now, Charles’ future once again remains uncertain.

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

Nelly Korda Continues Unprecedented LPGA Run

LPGA golfer Nelly Korda poses with Mizuho Americas Open trophy
Nelly Korda took home the title at the Mizuho Americas Open on Sunday. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Nelly Korda continued her unprecedented LPGA run on Sunday, winning her sixth tournament in the last seven starts. 

The 25-year-old Florida native took home the title at the Mizuho Americas Open, becoming the first LPGA player to record six wins in a single season since 2013 — and that’s with three majors and a little over half the season left to play.

"Oh, my gosh, six," Korda said after the win. "I can't even really gather myself right now with that, the head-to-head that Hannah and I had pretty much all day. Wasn't my best stuff out there today, but fought really hard on the back nine."

Korda is just the fourth player on tour to win six times before June 1st, joining LPGA Hall of Famers Babe Zaharias (1951), Louise Suggs (1953), and Lorena Ochoa (2008).

Should her victory run continue, Korda could break the current record for single-season wins, currently set at 13 by Mickey Wright in 1963.

Korda ended Sunday's tournament one shot ahead of Hannah Green, finishing the 18th with a par putt to win it all.

"I mean, to lose to Nelly kind of like is — it's sad, but then it's also Nelly Korda," Green said of her second-place finish. "You know, like she's obviously so dominant right now. To feel like second behind her is quite nice. Unfortunately the bogey on the last has a little bit of a sour taste."

Next up is the US Women’s Open, a tournament that Korda has yet to win in her career. 

"Obviously it's on the top of my priority list," she said. "I just know there is never any good when you put more pressure on yourself. Just going to stay in my bubble that week and take it a shot at a time."

Earlier this year, Korda became the fastest player to collect $2 million in prize money over a single season. This latest win earned her an additional $450,000, bringing her season total up to $2,943,708.

Caitlin Clark Signs Multi-Year Deal with Wilson, Gets Signature Basketball Collection

caitlin clark poses with wilson basketball
Clark is just the second athlete to get a signature basketball collection with Wilson. (Wilson Sporting Goods)

Caitlin Clark has signed a multi-year endorsement deal with Wilson Sporting Goods that will include a signature basketball collection, the brand announced early Tuesday. 

According to Boardroom, Clark is just the second athlete to develop a signature collection with Wilson, with the first being Michael Jordan in the 1980s. In addition to her basketball collection, she will also "test, advise and provide feedback on a range" of related products. 

Three Clark-branded white-and-gold Wilson basketballs have already dropped. Each ball features laser-cut engravings of some of the guard's most memorable moments at Iowa, where she became the all-time leading scorer in Division I college basketball history.

Three Wilson basketballs from Clark's collection have already dropped. (Wilson Sporting Goods).

"I think it is super special, and it's been fun for me," Clark told Boardroom. "I feel like I was just that young kid who had those basketballs that I would store in the garage. I'm just very lucky and fortunate to partner with Wilson to create something that everyone can enjoy. It connects with a lot of generations, and it'll be fun to see kids walking around holding them."

The No. 1 overall pick at the 2024 WNBA Draft, Clark has been building up a slate of major endorsements since turning pro. Current partnerships include Gatorade and Panini, and she’s also close to signing a signature shoe deal with Nike worth a reported $28 million.

New York Liberty off to First 4-0 Start in 17 Years

sabrina ionescu of the new york liberty on the court
Sabrina Ionescu led the undefeated Liberty to a 74-63 win over Seattle Monday night. (Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images)

The New York Liberty are 4-0 on the season for the first time since 2007. 

The 2023 WNBA title finalists notched a 74-63 win over Seattle on Monday night, with Sabrina Ionescu dropping 20 points alongside eight assists. After the game, Ionescu told reporters she thought the team was coming together a bit easier than they did last year.

"I think having a year together, we don't nearly have to communicate as much on the court anymore," she said. "Because we can just play off one another and read. And that's obviously been the growth of this team, is being able to play a season together last year."

The team’s defense has also contributed heavily to the season's winning start. Last night, the Liberty held Jewell Loyd to just 13 points and nine rebounds. Loyd let the Storm in scoring, with only two other players in double digits, while Nneka Ogwumike missed her second straight game with an ankle injury. 

Storm free agency acquisition Skylar Diggins-Smith had eight points, and is averaging 14.5 points and 5.8 assists per game this season. In her postgame remarks, Storm head coach Noelle Quinn called on others to give her grace in her return. 

"There needs to be respect about the fact that she's had two children and hasn’t played in 20 months," said Quinn. "She’s not going to come overnight and be who she was 20 months ago and we have to respect that and honor that. And I do.

"My grace as a coach is to know she’s working her butt off every day. You guys don’t see it. Every single day. Two children. Not one, two. Not many can do that."

Australia’s Sam Kerr Ruled Out for 2024 Paris Olympics With ACL Injury

sam kerr playing for the australian womens national team
A longtime Matildas mainstay, Kerr has made 128 appearances for Australia alongside 69 career goals. (Joe Prior/Visionhaus via Getty Images)

Australia has confirmed that captain and star striker Sam Kerr will miss the Paris Olympics due to an ACL injury suffered early this year. 

Kerr, who also stars for Chelsea, tore her ACL in January. While unlikely that she would recover in time for the Olympics, Football Australia (FA) hadn’t confirmed her status until Tuesday when the team revealed its squad for upcoming warm-up games. 

In a statement, the FA said that Kerr remained on the sidelines and will continue her rehab program at Chelsea. 

"Attacker Amy Sayer (ACL) and forward Sam Kerr (ACL) remain on the sidelines with long term injuries," the report read. "Kerr and Sayer will continue their rehabilitation programmes in their home club environments and subsequently will not be available for selection for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games."

Tuesdays 23-player squad is a "strong guide" to the final Olympic lineup, according to coach Tony Gustavsson, but others like injured midfielders Katrina Gorry and Aivi Luik could potentially figure into the conversation. 

"[They] most likely will be physically available to be part of an Olympic roster," Gustavsson said of Gorry and Luik. "This window will be a tough one for me and my staff in terms of evaluating players, where they are, and then the final selection process for Paris."

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