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    Thursday, June 20, 2024

    Charles has graduated to the discussion of the best centers in the world

    Mohegan - And to think it was seven months ago today - Dec. 23 - that we hyperventilated at the thought of Tina Charles vs. Jayne Appel. It was the Stanford-UConn game in Hartford. National television. The potential No. 1 and No. 2 draft picks, in some order, on the same court.

    Now through the power of revisionism, we ask: What were we thinking?

    Appel is either playing a few minutes per game in San Antonio or in witness protection. And Charles? Holy Weaponry. The kid has been a horse. Forget about Rookie of the Year. Tina Charles is an MVP candidate.

    All of which brought us to Tuesday night in Neon Uncasville, a game that offered a much deeper menu for possible hyperventilation. Sun vs. Sky was also Tina Charles vs. Sylvia Fowles, maybe the two best centers in the world.

    Note the word "maybe." Maybe you can add another name or two to the argument. But not many. This was two future Olympians, likely the two centers on the Olympic team. This was Tina and her averages of 16 points and 11 rebounds. This was Big Syl, posting 19 and 8.

    "If Tina's not an MVP candidate right now," Chicago coach Stephen Key said after his team's 86-77 win, "I'd be very surprised."

    This was not Charles at her best on Tuesday. And she still finished with 14 points and 16 rebounds. It's the 7-for-18 from-the-field part that was un-Tina like, although she could be excused for having to shoot a decent number of the 18 over Fowles.

    Big Syl finished with 12 points and nine rebounds on 5-for-8 shooting, despite missing most of the fourth quarter with foul trouble.

    "Tina has put in the work," Fowles said. "She has put in the time. When I play against her, she takes me out of my comfort zone."

    And when you are Big Syl, your comfort zone is usually any place you want it to be.

    "Most of the time when Sylvia posts up, nobody can challenge her," Key said. "Tina is a good matchup for her. She has strength and length."

    Fowles still remembers the night fondly way back in Fresno, 2007. Big Syl and LSU tap danced on UConn in the regional final, one of the great nights in the history of the program. Fowles' domination of Charles personified LSU's control of the game. Charles has told the story often of how she kept Fowles' picture in her locker as a reminder to stay humble and hungry.

    But with two consecutive national championships in college and now a nightly double-double in the WNBA, Charles' ascendancy within the women's game is exploding, raining plaster on everyone below. It's hard to believe she's been a professional athlete for a grand total of three months.

    Charles and Fowles could have taught the male gland a thing or two Tuesday about running the floor and knowing what to do when you catch the ball. Geno Auriemma might be able to pull a John Wooden during the Olympics. Roll up the program and suggest, "Throw it to Tina" and "Throw it to Syl," much the way the Wizard could calmly direct his players to give to Walton or Alcindor.

    At least the 6,981 fans had the Charles-Fowles matchup to enjoy Tuesday. There wasn't much else. The Sun, who are clearly talented enough to hang around as long as anybody else in the league, played a generally mindless game on Tuesday. Example: In the fourth quarter with Fowles on the bench, Sun defenders should have swarmed Chicago guard Erin Thorn like the paparazzi. Thorn's game is perimeter shooting. She might be the best in the league. And with no legitimate post threat out there, there was really no excuse to leave her. Ever. Once.

    The bigger picture, however, shows that the Sun are 8-4, cured themselves of their disorder of playing on the road and have one hell of a frontline, beginning with Tina Charles.

    No longer is the discussion Tina Charles vs. Jayne Appel.

    Now she's graduated to Tina Charles vs. Sylvia Fowles.

    Tina will never get a greater compliment.

    This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

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