The Connecticut Sun likely have the best center in the WNBA in Tina Charles. She is so good it’s likely she will start for the 2012 Olympic team when it begins play in London this summer.
But Charles will not be asked to play 40 minutes a game for the Sun. And the process of finding the player – or players – to support her off the bench will likely be the most interesting aspect of the Sun’s upcoming training camp.
Aside from Charles, the former UConn national player of the year, the center spot features a number of players literally in a number of different places in their lives and careers.
Jessica Moore, who backed up Charles last season, is not likely to play this season after injuring her knee this winter. Sandrine Gruda, 6-5, who did not play in the WNBA last season after two stints in 2009 and 2010, also will not play this year as she prepares for the Olympics in France.
And so the Sun signed veteran free agent Mistie Mims and took two posts with their two selections in the 2012 Draft, 6-8 Astan Dabo of Mali (ninth overall) and North Carolina center Chay Shegog (second round, 21st pick).
Dabo, 19, is playing in a French league for Reims and isn’t expected to join the Sun because of her commitment with the Mali national team this summer prior to the London Olympic Games.
“Our project [of becoming a consistent winner] is a couple of years in the making now,” Sun coach Mike Thibault said. “In training camp, we wanted to create some competition in the post and Shegog is athletic and runs the floor well. You never know, if she comes in and plays well, we may have to rethink our roster. Rarely, do you have the chance to draft a player with her size and athleticism in the second round.
So Bass, the former Duke post, and Shegog, will compete for the roster spot reserved to support Charles.
“[The difficulty] of making a roster isn’t really daunting to me, but Coach [North Carolina’s Sylvia Hatchell] has reiterated that making a WNBA roster is going to be tough,” Shegog said. “But playing hard and playing my own game is all I can do to show them [she belongs].”
Shegog, the Tar Heels leading scorer last season, was playing in a pickup basketball game in Carmichael Arena when she received word that she had been selected.
“A couple of my teammates were on the sidelines watching the draft on the computer, and they stopped the game to tell me,” said Shegog, who will be reunited in training camp with former UNC teammate, Jessica Breland, who finished last season with the Sun after being released by New York. “They were screaming, but I didn’t know what they were referring to at the time.”
Before the draft, Shegog had lunch with Breland were told her about the Sun’s quest for another post. Shegog was a second-team All-ACC pick. She ranked fourth in the conference in scoring (15.6) and averaged 6.9 rebounds. She added 71 blocked shots and a 52.9 field goal percentage.
“We had a lot of injuries this season and won only 20 games, which isn’t a usual year for North Carolina,” North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “If we had done a little better, I am sure she would have been drafted a little higher than she was. She had to carry us a lot this season and she did. She was a warrior all year. This kid has improved so much during the season. When she came here she was big, but not in very good shape. But she has an unbelievable commitment, got her body into really good shape and was playing over 30 minutes a game for us. … If you compare what she did in her junior year to her senior year, it was pretty incredible to see.
“She’s a very competitive, very physical and she will only get better. I think the fans will be pleasantly surprised with how good and how tough she will be.”