Sun players dominate postseason awards, winning MVP, Kim Perrot, and 6th Woman; Sparks’ Toliver is Most Improved

Award winners Tina Charles, Renee Montgomery and Kara Lawson.

Players on the team that ended the season as the best in the Eastern Conference took home three individual players awards led by Tina Charles, the 2012 WNBA Most Valuable Player.

Last year Tamika Catchings won WNBA Most Valuable Player, in what many called a “lifetime achievement” award, as there was no clear-cut choice for the honor. That was not the case this year. In a race that included strong candidacies from Los Angeles’ Candace Parker, Minnesota’s Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen plus New York’s Cappie Pondexter, Charles led the voting with 345 points. Parker was second with 253, Catchings third with 210 and Moore fourth with 128.

Charles becomes the first true center to win the award since Lisa Leslie in 2006, as the MVP trophy has been in the custody of forwards (Tamika Catchings, Lauren Jackson, Candace Parker) and guards (Diana Taurasi) for the last half-dozen years.

While leading the Connecticut Sun to first place in the Eastern Conference, Charles dominated the court on both ends. She averaged 18.0 points per game, a new franchise record, and good for fifth best in the WNBA. She also led the league in field goals made with 250.

Additional statistics include leading the league in rebounding (10.45 per game) and total rebounds (345) while breaking 1999 Most Valuable Player Yolanda Griffith’s record for fewest games played to get 1,000 rebounds. Charles also tied with Parker for the most double-doubles in the league with 18.

Defensively, Charles was second in the league in total blocks, blocks per game, defensive rebounds, and defensive rebounds per game.

In only her third season in the league, Charles has shown improvement each year, adding new moves to her arsenal, including a dangerous running hook shot and a midrange jump shot that has become reliable. She even added the first three-point shot of her career this season.

She accomplished all of this, while also “squeezing in” the third most minutes in the Olympic games for the United States gold-medal-winning national team and averaging a third highest 10.5 points per game.

Charles joins Catchings and Cynthia Cooper of the Houston Comets in 1997, the first year of the league, as the only MVP winners out of the Eastern Conference in the history of the WNBA. After 1997, Houston moved to the Western Conference.

For the second time, Sun guard Kara Lawson was awarded the Kim Perrot Sportsmanship award, which is given to a player that “exemplifies the ideals of sportsmanship – ethical behavior, fair play and integrity.” Lawson previously won the award in 2009.

Embraced as a member of the community in Connecticut, Lawson has been front and center in raising funds for Alzheimer’s research in honor of her former coach Pat Summitt, head coach emeritus of Tennessee.

Interestingly, Lawson’s move to the starting lineup pushed guard Renee Montgomery to the role of 6th person. Over the season Montgomery thrived in the role, averaging 11.6 points and 3.4 assists per game. For her efforts today she received the Sixth Woman of the Year award, getting 25 votes, more than twice as many as second place Danielle Adams of San Antonio. Jia Perkins (San Antonio), Erlana Larkins (Indiana), Monica Wright (Minnesota), and Avery Worley, who was released by Phoenix, also received votes.

Around an hour after those three were honored, the league announced to no one’s surprise Los Angeles Sparks’ guard Kristi Tolliver earned the Most Improved Player award, garnering 24 of 41 votes. Tolliver set career highs in scoring, assists, rebounds and steals for the Sparks. Phoenix’s DeWanna Bonner was second with 7 votes, followed by Epiphanny Prince of Chicago, Rebekkah Brunson of Minnesota and the Sun’s Lawson.

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