A massive chocolate cake was wheeled out to the floor after the Connecticut Sun’s 85-73 win over the Washington Mystics on Wednesday. Little American flags were dispersed to those gathered on the floor around it.
The Sun wanted to bid farewell, on behalf of their fans, to their two Olympians, Asjha Jones and Tina Charles, both former UConn stars.
After Friday’s game, they will fly to Washington to reunite with Geno Auriemma’s national team. The USA team will practice for two days, play Brazil Monday at the Verizon Center and then head to Europe.
For Jones, 31, this will be her first and last Olympic Games. For Charles, 23, this could be the first of many.
“Asjha hasn’t said it publically too much, but making the Olympic team means a lot to her,” said Thibault, an assistant on the 2008 gold medal team in Beijing. “Partly it’s about the validation it brings her career. But every player also wants to be a part of something special.”
Jones, who helped the USA win a gold medal at the 2010 World Championship in the Czech Republic, is having a stellar season for the Sun. Her 22 points Wednesday night was a season-high.
She was also the last player added to the 12-player roster. She is a personal favorite of both Auriemma and Sun coach Mike Thibault. And she is greatly looking forward to the experience.
“I had to pack (Tuesday night) for like a month,” said Jones. “I kind of figured that we play every other day [at the Olympics] and that we’ll be getting a lot of stuff [merchandise] while we are there.
“So I told myself I would just bring five pairs of jeans, a few pairs of pants to wear at night. But then I ended up taking every single pair in my closet. I panicked at the end and took everything.
This is so awesome for me. I just want to stay in the moment and take it all in. I may actually carry a camera, which would be a first for me.”
Charles, a former WNBA Rookie of the Year,is having an MVP season for the Sun. She is averaging a double-double and is now just 27 rebounds from becoming the fastest player in league history to 1,000 rebounds. She has 973 in just 86 games.
“I have a lot of family on my mother’s side that will be there [in London],” Charles said. “I want to see them very much. And I want to take in the entire experience, see as many different events as are going on.
“My mother is Jamaican, so I want to see Usain Bolt run. And, of course, I am looking forward to being in the opening ceremonies. I know it’s going to be very emotional for my family and me as well.
“It’s such a blessing in my life. I don’t know what will happen in the next four years, so I am intent to take advantage of everything I can. And I’d like to meet Allyson Felix [the USA sprint champion] and Michael Phelps [the gold medal swimmer].”
Both the men and women’s basketball teams do not stay in the Olympic village with the other athletes. But Jones said the logistical challenges of getting around will not impede her mission.
“If we were staying in the Olympic village it likely would be a little easier,” said Jones. “But we’re not. But everything is very accessible in London and we’ve already made a plan to do as much as possible without doing too much.
“I want to see everything possible.”
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