The No-Nonsense MVP

Sep 28 2012 12:29AM

Tina Charles is awarded the WNBA MVP Award presented by Boost Mobile.
Jesse D. Garrabrant /NBAE/Getty Images

UNCASVILLE, Conn -- For one of the most decorated players in the WNBA, Tina Charles surely isn’t about the glitz and glamour.

The no-frills Connecticut center is one of the most consistent players in the league and she added to her trophy case on Thursday night when she was awarded the 2012 WNBA MVP Award presented by Boost Mobile.

“It’s a blessing to receive this award,” said Charles, who cried on the phone when WNBA President Laurel J. Richie told her the news. “There’s a lot of great players to receive this award in the WNBA. So to be MVP, it’s just breathtaking for me.”

After a season that saw Charles average a career-high 18 points per game, lead the league in rebounds (10.5) and double-doubles (18, tied with Candace Parker) and pace the Sun to the top overall seed in the East, Charles made herself the clear choice for the award over other top candidates like L.A.’s Parker and Indiana’s Tamika Catchings.

In fact, she made the choice – much like her game – fairly simple.

“I’m not a flashy player,” the 6-foot-4 Connecticut product said. “I’m not going to go behind the back. I’m not going to bring the ball up and down the court. All I do is just get put-backs, and I do a simple drop step move and a simple hook shot.”

Two points is two points after all.

Void of flare, one cannot argue with Charles’ production, even if her highlight reel more resembles a tape on basketball fundamentals than it does a SportsCenter Top 10 plays. She has 73 career double-doubles in 101 career regular season games and this year became the quickest player in WNBA history to 1,000 rebounds.

“I look back to the great centers in the history of the men’s game whether it was Bill Russell or whoever, I compare her more to that,” Connecticut coach Mike Thibault said. “Obviously she’s not the shot blocker he was, but they make their team win. She’s done it her whole career. You’re not flashy, you just come with that workmanlike attitude every day.”

In that respect – and maybe the 23-year old Charles and the 61-year-old Thibault are aging themselves with their comparisons – Charles likened herself to Tim Duncan of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs in that they’re both fundamental bigs that produce at an MVP level yet quietly go about their business on both ends of the floor.

Where supreme athleticism and showman-like moves may carry some players, it is the yeoman’s work that propels the Tina Charles’ and Tim Duncans of the world to the summits they’ve reached.

“Hard work, dedication and perseverance definitely pay off,” Charles said. “It’s definitely one of the reasons why I’m in this position and one of the reasons why I’m named MVP, but I just want to continue to work hard. I’m just a really simple player. I am just going to do a simple move and get the job done for our team.”

Two points is two points after all.

Charles has – by all definitions – gotten the job done. She led the Sun to its second-best record in franchise history as they went 25-9 and earned the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

Even with a myriad of achievements in her young career – which include a Rookie of the Year Award in 2010 and a gold medal for Team USA this summer – Charles feared that her rather pedestrian style of play of “getting by on hook shots and drop steps” would hold her back from getting the notoriety she deserved. Now that she’s earned that recognition on a league-wide basis by virtue of winning this award, she says that will only help her and her teammates moving forward.

“It definitely adds confidence for me just knowing that my game is finally being respected in that type of way – and at a young age – so I know it’s just going to carry over to my teammates and my teammates are going to continue to work hard,” Charles said.

The ultimate goal is, obviously, a championship. Connecticut hasn’t won a playoff series since 2006 and the Sun’s 65-60 win over New York in Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Thursday night was actually Charles’ first playoff win of her career.

If the Sun are going to complete a title run – which would mean that Charles would win a gold medal, an MVP and a league title in the same year, something accomplished only once in WNBA history (Sheryl Swoopes, 2000) and something that LeBron James managed this year – Charles is going to have to continue her evolution as a leader.

“We have a team that at the start of the year was one of the youngest teams in the league and Tina was one of the youngest players and she was willing to take on the burden of responsibility for her team and I think that’s a great trait for a young player,” Thibault said.

Whenever she was asked about the MVP award, Charles was quick to point out the efforts of her teammates that helped her get there, none more important than Kara Lawson who received the Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award and Renee Montgomery who was awarded Sixth Woman of the Year Award on the same stage as Charles as she was handed the MVP trophy on Thursday.

That multi-dimensional press conference was a shining example of how Connecticut has succeeded playing as a team this year – with Charles as its ringleader. And, while Charles is quick to praise her teammates, her teammates are not shy about lauding her either.

“I thought she could have got MVP last year so it was well deserved this year for sure,” Montgomery said. “Night in and night out to be constantly facing the double team and constantly facing the whole opponent’s strategy to stop you and still perform well, that says a lot about a player.”

Charles’ net production – not necessarily how she does it – is what does her talking for her. And her no-nonsense, non-theatrical style of play may best be explained in how she describes herself.

“I’m just your average girl from Queens, New York,” Charles said.

Two points is two points after all.





Western Conference

Conference Finals

Conference Semi Finals

Eastern Conference

Conference Finals

Conference Semi Finals