Tina Charles played for one of the most famous NCAA teams in history while she was at the University of Connecticut. She was part of the team that went 78-0 and won back-to-back NCAA Championships. Now she plays for the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun as the number one overall pick in the 2010 draft. She won Rookie of the Year and many other awards. She is also part of the 2012 USA Women’s Basketball team. We talk about her career in college, the WNBA, and President Obama.
Art Eddy: First off looking at your stats and awards from college and now the WNBA you have accomplished so much. What motivates you day-in and day-out?
Tina Charles: I just love the game of basketball. I have been blessed for many years, and I just go out there and play hard and just leave it out on the court. I always want to better myself and reach my potential. UConn definitely prepared me for that and so now I am just trying to better myself and better my teammates everyday.
AE: At UConn you played for a great college with tremendous history. How was playing at the school and playing for Geno Auriemma?
TC: It was really good. It was a lot of fun. We had great memories. We went 78-0. Won two national championships and it definitely helped me elevate my game and my expectations of myself. He helped me with what my teammates should expect from me day in and day out. He definitely elevated my game and is part of the reason of my success.
AE: What was it like to meet President Obama twice at the White House when he congratulated your team for winning the NCAA Final Four, and plus did he say anything about your comment after you won in 2010 about going to see him again?
TC: It was great. The first year that we won I just said something because it was the first time that he was in office and we were going to be the first women’s team to be in the White House. I was really looking forward to it and my teammates were. He was a great guy and I loved the experience to be there for the first time. The second time to have the opportunity to meet The First Lady, Michelle Obama. It was just overwhelming. It was great.
AE: Now in the WNBA you play for the Connecticut Sun where you won Rookie of the Year, an All Star in 2011, and won the rebounding title in 2010 and 2011. It seems the transition from college to the professional level was not that hard for you, can you tell me what the transition was like for you?
TC: It was actually easy, mentally. Because when you go to UConn, Coach Auriemma expects his freshman to play like sophomores, sophomores to play like juniors, juniors to play like seniors, and seniors to play like pros. Coach Auriemma and the coaching staff at UConn definitely prepare you for that. So the transition mentally of how to play my game and what to expect was easy. The physical part of the game, playing against women who have been in the league for that long to be a post player in that aspect too. So mentally the transition was just fine.
AE: Did you have a lot of pressure being the number one draft pick in the 2010 draft that you felt you had to prove yourself?
TC: It was nothing about proving myself. I just wanted to go out there and wanted to have an impact on that team. Whether I was the first pick or that last pick in the WNBA. I just wanted to go out and play hard and just have an impact on my teammates, myself and for the team. We didn’t make it to the playoffs that year, but last year we did. We are just improving year by year. I think the sky is the limit with the Connecticut Sun.
AE: This summer you will be back with Geno Auriemma for the 2012 Summer Olympics and a host of great players. What does playing for the USA Olympic team mean for you?
TC: Playing on the USA team is definitely a blessing. It is really overwhelming and I was just ecstatic and really happy when I got the call that I was on the team and to represent my country. In the past watching great athletes represent the country. Of course I want to win the gold, but just the fact that I was part of this team is definitely an honor and I am looking forward to it.
AE: With the WNBA and now getting ready for 2012 Olympics your body must take a beating. How do you stay in the game and play while you are in pain?
TC:The product that I use is definitely Arctic Ease. It definitely provides relief from pain and inflammation without discomfort or ice or frozen gel packs. It definitely helps and it is effective. When I am home I just wrap it on me and it provides at temperature that is above 59 degrees. When the skin temperature goes below that the tissue and nerve damage can occur. Just having this as a safe product it definitely helps me whenever I need it. Whether it is on my knees, my ankles, elbows, shoulder it definitely helps me get through.
AE: When you do have down time, what is your favorite way to relax?
TC: My favorite thing to do to relax is just laying around in my bed or actually laying on the couch. The NBA playoffs are going on. So that definitely keeps me in the grove of things. Just hanging out with my teammates. Sometimes we will barbecue, we will hang out, or go to the movies. We are a really close bunch.
AE: Speaking of the NBA playoffs do you think LeBron and Dwyane are putting way too much pressure on themselves, or what do you think is going on with the Heat right now?
TC: I think they just need to settle down. I mean I’m not really going for the Heat. I am going for Boston. I am a huge KG fan. And for the western side I am going for Tim Duncan. Those guys are just great power forwards. They are people that I like to emulate in my game to and just to learn from watching film on them. So I am really for Boston. So whatever they (the Heat) are doing I just want them to keep on doing it so Boston can just keep winning.
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