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How Tina Charles' high standards for herself make everyone around her better

Tina Charles still hears the statement in her head.
You're the worst rebounder in the world.
Most former UConn players will say the well-intentioned barbs delivered by coach Geno Auriemma continue to motivate them, even many years after they've left Storrs.
But Charles sometimes thinks she really is the world's worst on the boards. Never mind that on July 14 she became the Liberty's all-time rebounding leader after just 3½ seasons with the franchise. She is now at 1,113 in 119 regular-season games for New York, and has 2,523 in 249 games overall in her WNBA career, which started with the Connecticut Sun.
But record or not, Charles never lets herself off the hook. She is well aware of every time she misses a box out, or lets a potential rebound get away from her. In her mind, that's not meeting the basic requirements of her job.
"From the time I entered the WNBA, I wanted it to be my staple," Charles said. "Knowing my guards can leak out because they're trusting me to get [the defensive] rebound, getting [offensive rebounds] to keep a possession going.
"It is about technique and about effort. I take pride in it. It's something I can control when other things aren't going well."
There aren't too many times, though, when Charles' game isn't working. Now in her eighth WNBA season and coming off her fifth All-Star Game appearance, Charles is averaging 20.5 points and 9.9 rebounds for the 10-9 Liberty, who face league-leading Minnesota on Tuesday (ESPN2, 8 p.m. ET). She was named the Eastern Conference player of the week on Monday, her third such honor this season and 24th in her career.
"My first experience at the pro level with an athlete who had that kind of depth was Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar]. I saw some of Kareem in her; she has this thirst for other things in life."
Coach Mike Thibault on Tina Charles
Charles has averaged a career double-double (18.0 PPG, 10.1 RPG) and has two Olympic and two world championship gold medals. She was the 2012 WNBA MVP, and led the league in scoring last season (21.5 PPG).
Of course, there is one thing still left on her to-do list: win a WNBA title. She wants it for the Liberty, for her hometown of New York, for her teammates.
"Tina is one of the strongest-minded players I've been around," said Phoenix's Diana Taurasi, who has played with Charles on the U.S. national team. "Sometimes it comes down to the right pieces and the right team. But there's no way a player like Tina is not going to win a championship, because she's that determined and driven to do it."
But as much as winning is her motivator, Charles also cares about what she is passing on to everyone around her.
"I can't overstate how proud I am of Tina -- just who she's become as a person as well as on the court," said Minnesota's Maya Moore, who played with Charles at UConn and with the national team. "She's done both -- grow as a person and still be an MVP candidate every year.
"She's grown as a leader in being the voice, saying, 'This is what we value, this is how we can be successful every day.' Stepping into that role of being a leader who wants to empower others. I think her teammates respect not just what she says, but what she does. It's hard to do every day at a high level on a big stage at New York."
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