UConn Preview at USA Hoops Festival

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., June 17 - Two big pieces of the future of Connecticut women's basketball crossed pathes here today and the outcome was rather like a couple of atoms meeting up in a supercollider - explosive, chain-reactive, spectacular.

The stats tell only part of the story: Tina Charles - 28 points, a Festival-record 21 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 blocks; Jacki Gemelos - 27 points, 5 assists and 4 steals. Charles and USA Red over Gemelos and USA White, 89-79 in the opening round of the USA Basketball Women's Youth Development Festival at the U.S. Olympic Training Center.

On Saturday night, Gemelos exacted a measure of revenge, scoring a team-high 17 points to lead USA White to a 78-63 victory and a berth in the gold medal game on Sunday. Charles again led USA White during the loss with 22 points.

Close your eyes - well, cross them, at least - and this could have been, say, 2008 in Storrs, the Huskies led by their dynamic duo, Ms. Inside and Ms. Outside, the sex-changed equivalent of Kobe and Shaq. Make that Bird and Cash, if you will. In case you missed it, Gemelos has been a UConn commit since, heck, she was seven, and Charles was a later but still pretty early convert.


Tina Charles
"She was awesome," Gemelos said of her teammate-to-be. "To think, in a year we will be teammates instead of playing against each other. I'm sure she'll be one of the best post players I've ever played with."

That's saying something since Gemelos plays on her club team, the East Bay Xplosion, with Jayne Appel, considered one of the top five or so prospects in the country and someone UConn hopes to add to its 2006 take. Charles, however, shut down any debates about the No. 1 inside prep player in the land. That would be her.

Appel had a decent, nine-point, nine-rebound outing, but Charles was on another planet. The junior at Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.) isn't a finished product, but has nice size (6-foot-3, 187 pounds), is ultra-athletic and gets after it. She has a nice turnaround jumper on the baseline, attacks the offensive boards, will snatch defensive rebounds and on occasion explode downcourt, can stop-and-pop and is very good from the foul line.


Jacki Gemelos
Gemelos presumably brought out the best in Charles, a development that Geno Auriemma no doubt hopes continues into the next decade. The junior out of St. Mary's in Stockton, Calif., had a scintillating 4-5-minute stretch at the end of the first half that turned a double-digits blowout into a nail-biter. At 6 feet, Gemelos has moves galore off the bounce, a middle game, an easy stroke from three, sees deliveries few others will, and has the heart of an assassin.

That would be something that Gemelos shares with her other-coast Husky commit.

"Jacki's obviously a great player and has great court sense and awareness. ," said Charles, who also amassed 15 rebounds during her team's evening game. "It's going to be a beautiful opportunity, playing with her."

They've been playing against each other since they were 13, the first coming at AAU Nationals at Disney World in Orlando. Gemelos won that one. They also met at the Nike Tournament of Champions in Chandler, Ariz., last winter. Charles won that one, and Christ the King went on to win the tournament. That knots their career series at 2-2, but who's counting? Charles isn't; she thought Gemelos had the series in her pocket. It was Gemelos who set the record straight.

Though their collegiate destination is the same, they will have taken divergent pathes. Gemelos says Connecticut was her "dream school" since she was seven years old. Charles was an accomplished softball player in her youth and says she never dreamed she'd be bound for basketball or one of its storied programs.

"It hasn't even hit me yet that I'm going to UConn and playing with Jacki there," Charles said. "We're just going to have to play our game. We're going to have to find ourselves at Connecticut."

Based on today's sneak preview, that shouldn't take long at all.

More Photos at www.HoopGurlz.com

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