UConn’s Edwards takes her cues from former Huskies great Tina Charles

6-foot-3 UConn forward Aaliyah Edwards has become a dual machine for the No. 5 Huskies forward, who visits Seton Hall on Tuesday for a Big East game. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

Former UConn All-American and Olympian gold medalist Tina Charles headed to the Storrs over the weekend as she prepares for her 13th season in the WNBA and is currently playing for the Seattle Storm.

Charles, who is a 6-foot-5 quarterback, ended up playing UConn’s 6-3 small forward, Aaliyah Edwards, in a singles game. Charles, trailing 2-1, won three straight points, scoring to take a 3-2 lead on a sweet spin, moving the ball from her right hand to her left and kissing through the glass from her left and shutting it down. Simple jump shot.

“They started playing and it was all funny and funny until Aaliyah went 2-1 and later became a Hall of Famer and WNBA MVP against a college kid,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said with a smile.

“Aaliyah learned a lot and got kicked out of it and I think she’s looking forward to it happening again. I got to see the hilarious Tina and get to see Tina, the starter on the Olympic team.”

Edwards responded with 17 points and 11 rebounds in Yukon’s 65-50 win over Georgetown on Sunday at the XL Center. The fifth-ranked Huskies (15-2, 8-0 Big East) will be next up at Seton Hall (13-5, 6-2) at 7 p.m. on Tuesday (SNY).

Edwards soared her confidence, averaging 16.5 points and 9.4 rebounds per game and shooting 62.8%. On December 28 against Creighton, Edwards grabbed 20 rebounds, making her the first UConn player with 20 rebounds in a game since Maya Moore.

Against Georgetown, Edwards recorded her seventh double-double of the season after failing to reach the milestone even once last year.

“It was great playing against a professional,” Edwards said of Charles. “It was great matching her up for me individually and then for us as a team.

“She’s very loud and also made her low profile presence known. It helped me work my defense against a bigger and longer encounter and then also offensively, trying to get buckets on her, which I did.”

Oraima said that Edwards’ career path actually bore a strong resemblance to that of Charles.

Charles took a back seat at UConn to All-Americans Moore and Renee Mongtomery. As a junior and senior, she then helped lead the Huskies to 39-0 seasons that culminated in the national championships. Charles was UConn’s all-time leading rebounder (1,367), the first overall pick in the 2010 WNBA Draft, selected by the Connecticut Sun.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, Maya Moore has been 10 since the day she walked on campus, right?” Auriemma said. “Tina was probably 5 or 6, maybe seven on some good days the first couple of years. And being me, I kept asking her why Maya is a first team All-American and Renee is a first team All-American and you’re sitting there, clapping among the public.”

Charles told the coach that she would be honored next year.

“Well, the next year that changed and she decided she wanted to be a 10 and then it was a 10 every day for the next two years,” said Orima.

So you explain that to Aaliyah and say, ‘Your first two years were pretty much (like those of Charles). The challenge now is you have to be like a 10 every day. You have to be like a pro every day now the rest of this year and all next year if you’re You want to get to what it is.”

UConn defeated Seton Hall 98-73 on December 21, earning Edwards’ 23 points and six players overall in double figures.

Despite this, Okon, who has been plagued by injuries, was dealt another blow on Sunday when leading scorer Zazi Vad collided with her previously injured right knee and missed the second half.

The Huskies led Georgetown 24-23 at halftime and committed 23 turnovers overall.

“I feel like we’re definitely happy to have another game as soon as possible,” UConn center guard Nika Muhl said Sunday. “Well, personally, I am furious with the way today’s match went despite our victory. We are certainly happy to have another match as soon as possible just so we can fix things as soon as possible.”


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