The 2020 WNBA season was not the new beginning that Tina Charles was hoping for.
After six seasons with the New York Liberty, Charles found himself at a dead end. Although she was still an All-Star in 2019, she had the worst 2- and 3-point shooting rates of her career, averaging just under 17 points per game. In April 2020, she was traded to the Washington Mystics and reunited with Mike Thibault, who coached her when she played for the Connecticut Sun from 2010 to 2013.
However, Charles did not get a chance to play for Thibault and his 2019 WNBA champion team last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Charles has extrinsic asthma and was medically excused for the 2020 season after the Mystics team doctor declared her high risk. Despite the disappointment of not participating in the competition, Charles used the overtime as an opportunity to work even harder.
“I went to the gym with my coach every day,” she told USA TODAY Sports. “That was literally my day: wake up, go to Brooklyn and train. That’s all I did, I just tried to stay engaged. To work on my game this offseason and just watch DC play this year, I didn’t want to miss any thing. ”
That extra training paid off, as Thibault said he had never seen a player arrive on training ground with the high levels of physical fitness that Charles achieved for the 2021 season.
“She is someone who was very motivated to show the world that I was still one of the elite players,” Thibault said. “She was in incredible shape. I don’t know if any player was in better shape than her in this training camp, so she was absolutely ready to play.”
The Mystics host the Sun Tuesday night at 7pm. ET on ESPN2.
At 32, Charles has one of the best years of her career. She has led the league for most of the season, averaging 25.4 points per game, which is also her personal best. She currently has the best professional highs of hers in triples (36.5%) and free throws (85.1%).
Charles also leaves her mark on the record books, climbing to second in all-time doubles and eighth in her career points. On June 22, she became the first player in WNBA history to record more than 30 points, more than 15 rebounds, and more than five assists and three points in a single game.
Despite her historic numbers, Charles doesn’t view her performances this season as spectacular. Doing her best is only part of her job description.