During the seven seasons they’ve been teammates at UConn and with the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun, Renee Montgomery’s relationship with Tina Charles has grown into something special.
“I honestly feel that Tina and K-Bear [Kalana Greene] are like my sisters,” Montgomery said. “So when I hear about how well either of them is doing, it makes me feel such pride because I consider myself like their older sister.
“I’ve watched Tina grow from when she came to UConn [for the 2006-07 season] to this point. It’s pride in family.”
On Saturday at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., Montgomery played through the pain of a turned left ankle to score a season-high 18 points to lead the Sun to a huge and extremely critical 88-66 win over the New York Liberty.
For the last-place Sun (6-12) every win from this point forward is vital as they attempt to chase down Indiana, New York and Washington for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. That process begins Tuesday at the Mohegan Sun Arena against the Los Angeles Sparks.
“The motto now is ‘We’ve Got To Get In.’ And I love the fact that we are playing with much more confidence now,” Donovan said. The Sun have won two straight.
But Montgomery was not the leading scorer against the Liberty. It was Charles, who scored 21 points. And along with it came another 14 more rebounds to give Charles her 76th double-double of her career.
In just 119 games, Charles has become the most consistent rebounder in WNBA history since Hall of Famer Lisa Leslie.
Against the Liberty she surpassed 1,300 rebounds quicker than anyone else had. And her 76th double-double tied her with Lauren Jackson for fourth all-time. Leslie’s 157 double-doubles lead the way.
“I just keep shaking my head. It is remarkable,” Sun coach Anne Donovan said. “Not just to get that many double doubles, but just four years into your career to have that many. It just speaks to her maturity and her grindstone mentality to just put her nose down and go to work. We’ve struggled this season; clearly we have. But it hasn’t deterred Tina. It’s an MVP kind of mindset.”
Charles, who was not voted to the starting lineup in this year’s All-Star Game [she started in place of the injured Elena Delle Donne] remains humbled by her accomplishment. But she also has another reason to pursue it.
“I usually don’t take the time to think about what I have been able to do,” Charles said. “But now because of my foundation [The Hopey’s Heart Foundation], and the fact that I am going to donate every time I get a double-double, it makes me more excited to earn one.”
Charles’ aunt, Maureen “Hopey” Vaz died March 9 or multiple organ failure. This season, to honor Vaz, Charles is donating an automatic external defibrillator [at a cost of about $1,500 per unit] to eligible schools or recreation centers each time she earns one. Saturday’s was her 13th of the season.
“It’s a great feat, I admit,” Charles said. “When you play you want to be able to leave a mark [on the game] when you retire. And if it’s anything [for herself] it will be that when I played I just wanted to rebound. I have thought that if I wanted one thing to stick out about my game it would be rebounding more than scoring.”
Donovan, one of the great centers in the history college basketball at Old Dominion, thinks Charles has the capacity to dominate even further.
“What I tried to tell Tina in New York was when she sees double- and triple-coverage [against her defensively] that when the shot goes up there are two defenders leaving her,” Donovan explained. “And that’s a great opportunity to go to the rim.”
“The motto now is ‘We’ve Got To Get In.’ And I love the fact that we are playing with much more confidence now.”