Tina Charles Heads to New York Liberty in Big Trade

UNCASVILLE, Conn. - The gasps in the arena said it all at the 2014 WNBA Draft as news broke the Connecticut Sun were trading their franchise star Tina Charles to the New York Liberty.

Trading Charles, the 2012 WNBA MVP and 2010 Rookie of the Year, is likely to be one of the biggest game changing transactions in WNBA history. In exchange for Charles, the Sun received rookie Alyssa Thomas – chosen by New York with the fourth overall pick on Monday night – second-year center Kelsey Bone and the Liberty’s first-round selection in 2015.

The move is no doubt a shock to WNBA fans everywhere and was requested by Charles herself, the Sun said.

“Learning that Tina was willing to sit out unless she was traded to New York was a shock to our organization and extremely unfair to a fanbase that has supported her efforts on and off the court,” Sun GM Chris Sienko said. “We made significant changes to our roster this offseason based in part on her feedback. For our fans and this team to be left in the lurch was not an option. New York stepped up with a significant offer that will pay dividends now and in the coming years.”

Charles could not be reached for comment and was silent on Twitter Monday night as the news broke.

Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer expressed his excitement in the acquisition saying "You don't get the chance to acquire players like that very often." Charles, a New York native, joins All-Star guard Cappie Pondexter and Essence Carson, who will return this season after an injury curtailed her contributions in 2013.

“Tina is obviously one of the best players in the league,” Laimbeer said. “Our franchise felt we needed to add All-Star caliber players, especially with our return to Madison Square Garden, to put a competitive team on the court. With Cappie, Essence and Tina, we have a sound nucleus to build a championship caliber team.”

Charles leaves the Sun as the team selected Chiney Ogwumike with the No. 1 overall pick. A Charles-Ogwumike pairing could have created a nasty-frontcourt unrivaled by any team in the Eastern Conference.

Just minutes after getting selected, Ogwumike said the pairing would have been great, but her focus is on the roster she is joining now.

"I would have loved to play with Tina Charles," she said. "But I put trust in the management, in the team and the coaches that they're trying to build a great championship team. Whatever happens, I'm going to come every day to practice with the players we have and really strive for greatness and bring that winning attitude."

Although Charles is returning to her native New York City, she had become somewhat of a celebrity in Connecticut. Charles played at UConn and helped the team win back-to-back national championships before joining the Sun.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma was at the draft and said he hadn't spoken to Charles about her decision.

"My first reaction when I heard the news tonight was "Wow, I didnt know that," he said. "But, when these guys get away, stuff happens. Unfortunately, it's a part of the business side of basketball."