Former UConn women’s basketball standout Tina Charles signs with WNBA’s Seattle Storm

Photo of Maggie Vanoni

Three days after her mutual contract divorce from the Phoenix Mercury, former UConn women’s basketball standout Tina Charles has signed a contract with the Seattle Storm for the remainder of the WNBA season.

“I didn’t go into the season this year thinking I would switch teams, that’s never been something that I’ve ever done in my career but at this point in my career ... (it’s) what I’m trying to get out of it at the end of the day and how I want to be coached, what type of culture I want to be a part of, it was very imperative for me that, ‘OK, championship or not, what am I surrounded by?’ and that’s really what it was for me,” Charles said Tuesday during the Storm’s media availability.

“It was extremely hard because the decision that I made didn’t just impact my life, but it impacted those in Phoenix and it’s something I think about all the time but at some point you do what’s best for you and your career and what you’re trying to get out of it.”

Charles will be available to play in the Storm’s game against Las Vegas Wednesday night.

“We are excited to add one of the premier players in our league to our roster,” Storm head coach Noelle Quinn said in the Storm’s release Tuesday. “Tina is a prolific scorer who brings veteran experience and adds depth to our front court. We look forward to seeing the immediate impact she can make for our team.”

Charles played and started in 16 games for Phoenix this season, averaging 17.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists in 33.1 minutes per game.

The eight-time WNBA All-Star and 2012 MVP was a free agent this past offseason after playing for the Washington Mystics in 2021.

Per ESPN, Charles chose to sign with Phoenix over Seattle due to a “disagreement” with the Storm in what her role would be.

With Phoenix star Brittney Griner detained in Russia, Charles was expected to help lead the Mercury’s frontcourt. However after leading the league with 23.4 points per game last season, Charles’ points per game this season was her second-lowest since 2015. ESPN reported Charles was “unhappy” with what her role turned out to be with the Mercury.

“After discussions with Tina and her agent, it was best for both parties to go our separate ways at this time,” Mercury general manager Jim Pitman said in the team’s release of the separation on Saturday. “Due to circumstances both in and out of our control, our season has not gone according to our plan, and we will continue to pursue all avenues for improvement.”

Charles move to Seattle marks her fifth team in the last three years.

“It’s been an emotional whirlwind because again I’m human,” Charles said about leaving the Mercury. “I know my decision impacted those in Phoenix but I still had the support of Diana (Taurasi) and that’s what meant the world to me because of what she’s done for my career and the rest of us and all those who have been in and out of the league.”

She joins fellow former Huskies Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart and Gabby Williams in Seattle. On Tuesday, Charles said already having played with Bird and Stewart helped in her decision to sign with Seattle.

“This organization has always been a standup organization,” Charles said. “Any time I was the opponent on the opposite end and you’re scouting Seattle, it’s just a lot. It’s a lot individually just with the talent they have and it was a lot with the sets and how they run their sets and how disciplined they are. … so for me and being with those guys I know they’re gonna help me along the way for me to be successful to help this team be successful.”

The Storm are currently second in the Western Conference standings with a 11-7 record. Phoenix is No. 4 at 8-12. The two teams’ final meeting in the regular season is scheduled for July 22 in Seattle.

After leaving UConn as a two-time national champion, Charles was the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2010 and played with the Connecticut Sun for four seasons before joining the New York Liberty.

“If it’s one thing I learned over these last three days, life isn’t about what you accomplish but who you become,” Charles said. “I’m becoming someone who has a standard, I’m becoming a woman that I want what I want and how it goes, and I want to be amongst (those) professionals and how you carry yourself on and off the court. So, for me it’s just who I’m becoming along the way and that’s the best thing about trying to obtain a goal. It’s not about the goal, it’s just who you become along the way and that’s what I’m most proud of myself right now.”

maggie.vanoni@hearstmediact.com