NEW YORK - In the last eight days, Tina Charles earned an All-America selection, was voted the Associated Press' women's player of the year and helped the Connecticut Huskies complete a second straight undefeated season for their seventh national championship.
Today, Charles is the favorite to be selected No. 1 overall by the Connecticut Sun in the WNBA draft.
“Tina is WNBA-ready,” Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said in a conference call. “Her game is so suited for our level, whether its her ability to score in post-up situations, or her offensive rebounding.”
After Charles, the choices aren’t so predictable in a pool deep with perimeter players, including fellow All-American Monica Wright from Virginia, Oklahoma State’s Andrea Riley, LSU’s Allison Hightower, UConn’s Kalanna Greene and former Rutgers guard Epiphanny Prince, who skipped her senior season and is playing overseas in Turkey.
The Seattle Storm’s first pick will be the 10th selection overall.
“There are a lot of great players out there to choose from, who will do well in the WNBA and have the potential to have long and outstanding careers,” Los Angeles Sparks coach Jennifer Gillom said.
Minnesota, sixth in the Western Conference at 14-20 last season, has the second and third picks and will be looking to bolster a lineup that added some veterans in the offseason after being one of the youngest teams in the league the last two years.
“We feel like we’ve got a really good core group of players,” said Reeve, entering her first season with the Lynx after nine years as an assistant with the Detroit Shock, a team that was sold and moved to Tulsa in the offseason. “We’re looking to add some depth on the perimeter and then certainly to add another post player that we think can help.”
The Lynx held the top pick – acquired from New York in a multi-team trade before the start of last season – after the draft lottery. However, they sent it to the Sun in a deal along with Renee Montgomery, who played with Charles for three years at UConn, in exchange for former University of Minnesota star Lindsay Whalen and the second pick.
The Sun, tied for fourth in the East at 16-18 last season, figures to get a boost from Charles – who averaged 18.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and 62 percent shooting from the field her senior season – on the court as well as in the stands. The Sun plays in Uncasville, Conn., about 25 miles from the UConn campus.
Chicago selects fourth, followed by San Antonio, Washington, the Sun again, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Seattle, Indiana and the Sparks again to close the first round.
The top post players available include 6-foot-4 Stanford All-American Jayne Appel, whose team lost to UConn in the NCAA title game Tuesday. Appel’s production dipped as she recovered from a knee surgery last June. She also played through an ankle injury and a stress fracture in her right foot the last few weeks and averaged 13.2 points and 8.7 rebounds.
With rest, Appel reportedly could be fully healed in three to four weeks,
“That’s a player that really understands how to involve her teammates, is a good team player on both sides of the ball,” Reve said of Appel.
Other potential first-round picks include Nebraska’s Kelsey Griffin, Florida State center Jacinta Monroe and Michigan State’s Allyssa DeHaan. Kansas’ Danielle McCray is also available, but suffered a torn ACL in her left knee and will miss this season.
Gillom will be looking to improve the Sparks’ guard play to help a frontcourt that includes Candace Parker, Tina Thompson and DeLisha Milton-Jones.