No. 4 UConn women’s basketball had a special visitor at practice this week, as three-time Olympic gold medalist and 2012 WNBA MVP Tina Charles made a surprise appearance.

The team shared a video Saturday showcasing Charles’ practice session with the Huskies. Charles even played one-on-one against starting forward Aaliyah Edwards.

At one point on Friday, associate head coach Chris Dailey told Charles to run, junior guard Nika Muhl said.

While she participated like one of the team, though, Lou Lopez Sénéchal, said the WNBA veteran also gave players valuable feedback.

“It’s really cool for us, having a vet like that that’s been here and has been in the league for many years and just learn from her,” Lopez Sénéchal told ESPN.

“You always think like, yes, they’re vets, she’s been in the WNBA for 13 years, that’s a long time. You expect them to be so good,” Mühl added. “But seeing that on the court, the way she plays, the way she reads the game, you can’t move her. She’s literally like a rock in the paint — it’s amazing. It’s just so cool to see that experience and so amazing for [the alumni] to keep coming back.”

In addition to Charles, former NBA star and Hall of Famer Ray Allen also made an appearance at practice.

Charles is a free agent this offseason after finishing the 2022 season with the Seattle Storm. During her time at UConn from 2006 until 2010, Charles was a two-time national champion and won multiple Player of the Year awards in 2010. She was drafted No. 1 overall by the Connecticut Sun in 2010.

WNBA star Tina Charles started a charity in 2013 to increase awareness and preparedness for sudden cardiac arrest, a cause that has come to the forefront after the on-field collapse of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin on Monday.

The 2012 WNBA MVP founded Hopey’s Heart Foundation to honor her aunt, Maureen “Hopey” Vaz, who died of multiple organ failure in March 2013. The organization provides AED donations and CPR training to schools and community centers.

Hopey’s Heart Foundation has donated 447 AEDs to date, per its website.

“I see it as the more AEDs out there we can help combat sudden cardiac arrest,” Charles said in 2014. “The more AEDs out there the better chance people will have.”

When Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest during the Bills’ Monday night game against the Cincinnati Bengals, medical personnel rushed onto the field, where they performed CPR and used an AED to help the 24-year-old. He remains in critical condition Wednesday at a Cincinnati hospital.

CPR helps blood to pump through the body, and an AED (which stands for automated external defibrillator) sends an electrical shock to the heart to restore its rhythm.

Fewer than 40 percent of people who experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital receive CPR from someone nearby, and fewer than 12 percent have an automated external defibrillator (AED) applied before emergency responders arrive, per the American Heart Association.

When a person has cardiac arrest in a public place, the chance of survival drops to about 10 percent, but the odds are better when CPR is performed and an AED is used. Nine in 10 cardiac arrest victims who receive a shock from an AED in the first minute survive, per the American Heart Association.

“During the past several decades, mortality has decreased, in part because of community-based emergency rescue programs using defibrillators and CPR,” cardiologist Sandeep Jauhar told the Washington Post. “People should definitely be trained in how to use an AED. There should be one available and ready for use in public venues. People should also learn how to administer CPR. It can be the difference between life and death.”

Charles, who played for the Phoenix Mercury and the Seattle Storm in 2022 and enters offseason as free agent, describes playing basketball as her career but promoting CPR and AED readiness as her mission.

“Scoring points is my job,” she told ESPN in 2014. “It’s what I’m supposed to do. But with an AED, you’re able to save a life. This is just something from my heart, and any accolades I receive about my work in the community mean more to me than the MVP award I won.”

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.

Tina Charles isn’t saying much about her midseason exit from the Phoenix Mercury, but the Seattle Storm center told ESPN that the June contract divorce came down to taking care of herself.

“It’s a business, and if we don’t hold up our end, we get cut,” she told ESPN. “I think for future generations, I hope I’ve allowed them to know the importance of being in a good working environment and a good culture. The importance of a coaching staff and how they prepare, and being accountable to teammates that are around you.”

While Charles said she is focused on the Storm’s playoff run, the 2012 WNBA MVP maintains that she did not leave Phoenix to chase a championship. Seattle holds a 1-0 lead on the Las Vegas Aces in the WNBA semifinals, with the next game in the series set for 10 p.m. ET Wednesday.

Rather, her departure from Phoenix speaks to the high standards she expects as a player.

“It said a lot about me as a woman, more even than me as a player, in terms of what I am going to stand for,” she said. “If a championship doesn’t happen, it doesn’t take away anything from the player I became, or what I’ve learned, or the experiences.”

Charles, the league’s leading scorer last season, joined the Mercury as a free agent in the offseason. But by June, the relationship had soured. The two sides agreed to a contract divorce and a few days later she was signed by Seattle.

She played her first game with the Storm on June 29. Then, starting July 5, she scored in double digits in nine straight games.

“She’s been very professional,” Seattle coach Noelle Quinn said. “She came with a mindset of, ‘I’m willing to do whatever you ask,’ and that was a great starting block.”

According to Charles, the transition has taken a lot of work and and a lot of adaptation. But she’s enjoyed the challenge.

“I want to thrive in the right environment at this point in my career, being 13 years in,” she said. “A lot of 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.”

Her presence has provided a boost for teammates as well, with Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird commending her ability to settle in.

“Now we have Tina with the Storm, and are seeing how she is off the court, the amazing human she is,” said Stewart, who led the league in scoring this season. “Her personality and competitiveness are so strong, and she’s really trying to help us as a team and just being there for everybody.”

Seattle Storm star Tina Charles joined the 7,000-point club Sunday, becoming the fourth WNBA player in history to reach the career milestone during her team’s 82-72 win over the Atlanta Dream.

The 33-year-old center put on a dominant showing, notching 27 points behind 69.2 percent shooting while pulling down 15 rebounds.

Charles was 14 points shy of the threshold heading into Sunday’s matchup but quickly hit the mark during a red-hot first half. With 20 points in the first two quarters, Charles posted the highest-scoring first half of any Storm player this season.

Her history-making outing came in Charles’ second start with the Storm since signing with the team on June 28 following her short stint in Phoenix.

“The milestone is something I’ll probably reflect back on when I’m retired,” Charles said. “Just trying to get these wins and knowing how important each and every single game is.”

Charles joins Tina Thompson, Tamika Catchings and Diana Taurasi as the only WNBA players to reach the 7,000-point mark.

Former WNBA MVP Tina Charles has signed a rest-of-season contract with the Seattle Storm, the team announced Tuesday. The Storm did not reveal the terms of the contract.

Charles will be available for the Storm’s game Wednesday game against the league-leading Las Vegas Aces.

“We are excited to add one of the premier players in our league to our roster,” Storm coach Noelle Quinn said in a statement. “Tina is a prolific scorer who brings veteran experience and adds depth to our front court. We look forward to seeing the immediate impact she can make for our team.”

The star center mutually parted ways with the Phoenix Mercury on Saturday in what the Mercury described as a “contract divorce.” She signed a one-year contract with Phoenix in February and averaged 17.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in 16 appearances with the team.

Multiple reports linked Charles to the Storm over the weekend. The Ball Out was the first to report the news of the center’s intended new destination. Rachel Galligan broke the news of the signing Tuesday for Winsidr.

The eight-time WNBA All-Star spent the 2021 season with the Washington Mystics and led the WNBA with 23.4 points per game. The No. 1 draft pick in 2010, she won her MVP award with the Connecticut Sun in 2012. She played with the New York Liberty from 2014-19 but didn’t play the 2020 COVID-19 bubble season.

The 33-year-old adds a post presence for Seattle, which already boasts offensive firepower from Jewell Loyd, Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird. Charles ranks sixth in league history with 6,889 career points and is just seven points away from fifth place.

The Storm sit in second place in the Western Conference with an 11-7 record, while the Mercury are in fourth place with an 8-12 record.

The WNBA returns with a full slate of competition, and viewers treated to games every day this week.

Just Women’s Sports has three storylines to watch as the action continues.

Will Tina Charles suit up for Seattle?

The Phoenix Mercury and Tina Charles shocked the league when the team announced Saturday it had agreed to a contract divorce with the star center. Charles signed a one-year deal with the Mercury in February, appearing in 16 games with the team during the 2022 regular season.

“After discussions with Tina and her agent, it was best for both parties to go our separate ways at this time,” Mercury general manager Jim Pitman said in a news release. “Due to circumstances both in and out of our control, our season has not gone according to plan, and we will continue to pursue all avenues of improvement.”

According to multiple reports, Charles is set to join the Seattle Storm, though the team has yet to comment on the rumors.

If Charles clears waivers and signs with Seattle in time for their midweek matchup against league-leading Las Vegas, she could appear for the Storm as early as Wednesday. It’s unlikely that any team has the cap space to take on Charles’ pre-divorce contract, so once she clears waivers, she will become an unrestricted free agent and Seattle can sign her.

The 33-year-old adds a post presence to the Seattle team, which already boasts offensive firepower from Jewell Loyd, Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird. Charles is still in the hunt for her first WNBA championship, with the Storm also hoping to lift the league trophy at the end of the year to send out Bird on a high.

Sky have top spot within sight

The Chicago Sky put on a thrilling performance in their home game against the Minnesota Lynx Sunday, following up a historic comeback against the Aces on Tuesday. Now the Sky are looking to extend their win streak to four games as they face off against Connecticut on Wednesday and Phoenix on Saturday.

Sitting only a half-game back of league-leading Las Vegas, Chicago has a chance to dethrone the Aces atop the table.

The Sky’s offense has been stellar, leading the league in field goal percentage at 47 while falling behind the Aces in three-point percentage at 35.9. Courtney Vandersloot, a key facilitator for the squad, has finished in the double-figures in the last six Sky games for her best scoring streak since 2020.

Is New York the real deal?

The New York Liberty are enjoying a two-game win streak, turning around a season that got off to a slow start.

Sabrina Ionescu has been on a tear since notching her second career triple-double on June 12, nearly repeating the feat in her last four games. The addition of Marine Johannes has been critical for New York, with the French star joining Ionescu as one of the squad’s clutch shooters.

The Liberty released Crystal Dangerfield from her hardship contract Friday but may bring her back in early July with some roster engineering. How the team will fair without her and whether or not New York can continue their climb up the WNBA standings will be in question as they face the Atlanta Dream on Thursday and the Los Angeles Sparks on Sunday.

Full Schedule

Monday, June 27

  • Indiana Fever vs. Phoenix Mercury at 10 p.m. ET on Facebook.com/Indianafever
  • Las Vegas Aces vs. Los Angeles Sparks at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBA TV

Tuesday, June 28

  • Atlanta Dream vs. Washington Mystics at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2
  • Dallas Wings vs. Minnesota Lynx at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN3

Wednesday, June 29

  • Connecticut Sun vs. Chicago Sky at 12 p.m. ET on NBA TV
  • Indiana Fever vs. Phoenix Mercury at 10 p.m. ET on NBA TV
  • Las Vegas Aces vs. Seattle Storm at 10 p.m. ET on Amazon Prime

Thursday, June 30

  • Atlanta Dream vs. New York Liberty at 7 p.m. ET on Twitter

Friday, July 1

  • Los Angeles Sparks vs. Dallas Wings at 8 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network
  • Las Vegas Aces vs. Minnesota Lynx at 8 p.m. ET on NBA TV
  • Indiana Fever vs. Seattle Storm at 10 p.m. ET on Facebook

Saturday, July 2

  • Phoenix Mercury vs. Chicago Sky at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN

Sunday, July 3

  • Washington Mystics vs. Connecticut Sun at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN
  • Seattle Storm vs. Atlanta Dream at 3 p.m. ET on NBA TV
  • New York Liberty vs. Los Angeles Sparks at 6 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network
  • Las Vegas Aces vs. Minnesota Lynx at 7 p.m. ET on Amazon Prime

Tina Charles is set to sign with the Seattle Storm after mutually parting ways with the Phoenix Mercury on Saturday, according to multiple reports.

Phoenix announced the contract divorce with Charles in a statement released on Saturday. The Ball Out was the first to report the news of the center’s intended new destination.

“After discussions with Tina and agent, it was best for both parties to go our separate ways at this time,” Mercury general manager Jim Pitman said. “Due to circumstances both in and out of our control, our season has not gone according to plan, and we continue to pursue all avenues for improvement.”

Charles averaged 17.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in 16 appearances with the Mercury after signing a one-year contract with the team in February.

The Seattle Storm, who waived forward Reshanda Gray on Friday, are looking to send Sue Bird out with a title run in her final WNBA season. Currently in fourth place in the league standings, Seattle (11-7) has engineered a turnaround after a slow start to the season.

Storm coach Noelle Quinn did not comment on the Charles reports before Seattle’s Saturday game against the Los Angeles Sparks.

“Our focus is right now and my focus right now is on the game,” Quinn said. “I don’t really have a comment about Tina.”

The Mercury (7-12) won their first game without Charles on the roster Saturday night, beating the Wings 83-72. But she was clearly on the minds of at least one of her former teammates. Sophie Cunningham shouted “F— Tina Charles!” after the win, according to reporter Landon Thomas.

The Storm and the Mercury will face off for the third and final time this season at 10 p.m. ET on July 22.

The Phoenix Mercury and Tina Charles have agreed to a contract divorce, the team announced Saturday.

Charles signed a one-year contract with the Mercury in February. She averaged 17.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in 16 appearances with the team.

“After discussions with Tina and her agent, it was best for both parties to go our separate ways at this time,” Mercury general manager Jim Pitman said in a news release. “Due to circumstances both in and out of our control, our season has not gone according to plan, and we will continue to pursue all avenues of improvement.”

The former WNBA MVP and eight-time WNBA All-Star spent the 2021 season with the Washington Mystics and led the WNBA with 23.4 points per game. She won her MVP award with the Connecticut Sun in 2012, and she played with the New York Liberty from 2014-19 but didn’t play the 2020 COVID-19 bubble season.

Phoenix sits at 10th in the league with a 6-12 record on the season.

The Phoenix Mercury announced Friday that they have signed Tina Charles, the WNBA’s leading scorer last year, to a one-year deal. According to Rachel Galligan of Winsidr, the deal is worth $108,000.

“Tina is an elite talent in our league and adding a player of her caliber is another example of our commitment to our fans and players to pursue a championship every year,” said Mercury GM Jim Pitman. “Tina has made it clear that she wants to win and wants to do so in Phoenix.”

The former No. 1 overall pick has twice been the WNBA’s leading scorer (2016, 2021). Last season, while with the Washington Mystics, she averaged a career-high 23.4 points while shooting 45 percent from the field.

Charles joins a lineup that includes Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner and Skylar Diggins-Smith. Led by new head coach Vanessa Nygaard, the Mercury will look to make back-to-back WNBA Finals appearances and win the franchise’s fourth championship.