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New York Liberty star Tina Charles enjoys All-American hoops week

Geoff Magliocchetti

This weekend, Connecticut alum Tina Charles joined her head coach for a ceremony in Springfield, then battled a teammate in Bridgeport.

No matter what you were up to this weekend, Tina Charles definitely did you one better.

The New York Liberty superstar has enjoyed a busy, basketball-filled week, traversing the state of Connecticut at the pace of a fast break up and down the Madison Square Garden court. Charles is currently traveling around the country with several other American WNBA stars, preparing for the United States’ trip to the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup.

This weekend, however, primarily took place in the Constitution State, where Charles first accompanied Liberty head coach Katie Smith to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield. Not only was Charles on hand for Smith’s induction, she herself was honored during the commemoration ceremonies, presented with the Mannie Jackson Human Spirit Award.

Presented to basketball stars for their charitable contributions off the court, the award was bestowed to Charles for her extensive work with Hopey’s Heart Foundation. Named after her late aunt Maureen “Hopey” Vaz, the foundation helps provide automatic external defibrillators (AED’s) to public spaces.

Charles’ endeavor was inspired by the tragic death of Michigan high school player Wes Leonard, who passed away due to an enlarged heart after a game in 2011.

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“My goal is to be a servant unto others,” Charles remarked to Gary R. Blockus in a story that appeared on the Liberty’s official website. “That’s what life is about. Being in the WNBA and playing basketball, I have the ability to make sure others see that way, to advocate for what they believe in.”

Charles’ fellow recipients included NBA veterans J.J. Barea and Boris Diaw. She would later take to Instagram to commemorate her meeting with a fellow New York basketball legend, Patrick Ewing.

Once she got back to the court, Charles again reunited with a fellow Liberty representative and University of Connecticut alumna, albeit in the form of friendly competition. After a “White vs. Red” scrimmage was held at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, SC, where the Americans held the first stage of World Cup training camp, the team descended upon Webster Bank Arena for an exhibition.

Awaiting the Americans was Team Canada, whose charge was led by none other than Kia Nurse, Charles’ New York and Connecticut teammate. In a game that took place 80 miles from their former stomping grounds in Storrs, Nurse led all scorers with 22 points while Charles added six points and five rebounds of her own.

Before the Americans prevailed with a 74-68 final, Charles and Nurse addressed the crowd of 3,258, thanking them for their attendance.

“Our camp wouldn’t be as productive without Tina and (Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike),” US head coach Dawn Stanley said, according to a Liberty team statement. “They’ve been around the block. They’ve been WNBA MVPs. They are ones we will lean on, with or without those playing in the WNBA Finals. They are respected players and players that have played at the top. They are two of our country’s best players, and we need to follow their lead.”

Charles got further good news this week, as she was chosen as one of the 16 finalists for the American World Cup roster. Several members of the 2016 Summer Olympics squad, which earned gold with an undefeated run in Rio de Janeiro, are likely to join her, including Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird, and Elena Delle Donne, the latter two of whom continue to compete in the WNBA Finals. Bird’s Seattle Storm are currently up two games to none on Delle Donne’s Washington Mystics, with the third game of a best-of-five set scheduled to go down on Wednesday night (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2).

In a Monday exhibition against Japan, held at Charles E. Smith Center on the campus of George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Charles picked up 12 points and seven rebounds in a 102-87 victory. The team departs for Europe this week, first stopping in Antibes, France for three more exhibitions, including a rematch with Nurse and the Canadians on Saturday. World Cup play begins on Sept. 22 in Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain, where they’ll begin to play in Group D against Senegal.

Charles and Nurse aren’t the only Liberty members preparing to represent their respective nations in the upcoming World Cup. Rebecca Allen, partaking in the cause for her native Australia, averaged 17 points in two exhibitions over the weekend, including a game-high 23 points against France.

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