UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Sue Bird and Tina Charles have quite a bit in common. They are both graduates of Christ the King High in Middle Village, New York, and the University of Connecticut. They were both two-time NCAA champions and the national Player of the Year with the Huskies. They've won an Olympic gold medal in 2012 and FIBA world championship gold in 2014 as teammates.
They will face each other in Saturday's WNBA All-Star Game at Mohegan Sun Arena.
And while Bird is 34 and Charles is 26, they are old enough and accomplished enough to be a mentor for professional rookies. That's been part of their job this summer and both are doing so with first-year players from their alma mater in Storrs.
After helping UConn to its third straight national championship with record-setting senior seasons, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Kiah Stokes were selected in the first round of April's WNBA Draft. Mosqueda-Lewis was taken third overall by Bird's Seattle Storm while Charles' New York Liberty traded up to get Stokes with the 11th pick.
Mosqueda-Lewis, a two-time All-American and the NCAA's all-time leader in 3-point baskets, has struggled. She has played in 12 of the Storm's 18 games and totaled 92 minutes with 36 points, five rebounds, four assists. She about had some single games like that with the Huskies.
Bird, though, claimed she is doing well.
"Obviously she's not playing as much as she wants and that is hard on anyone," Bird said. "Early on it took some time to adjust. But she's doing what she needs to do for when her number is called. You can see that. You can see that every day in practice and how she is with her teammates. You can see how she is on the bench. I joke, but she has to be up there in the per-40 categories. When she gets in, she contributes."
Bird, who is making her ninth All-Star appearance, is a veteran in the middle of Seattle's rebuilding project. The Storm are 5-13 and one-half game behind the San Antonio Stars for the Western Conference's fourth and final playoff spot.
"There are definitely moments,” Bird said. "We lose four games in a row, three by 20-plus points and that's never fun. I don't care how many times you can tell yourself, 'It's a rebuild. It's going to be OK.' It's not an enjoyable experience.
"But now we're at a point, halfway through the year, that our team feels we're in it together. You feel a connection and bond with that. We are improving. And the Storm franchise is one I feel connected to and a part of. I was there in the beginning and in the middle and now it's towards the end for me."
Meanwhile, Charles -- the WNBA Most Valuable Player in 2012 with the Connecticut Sun, is putting herself in position to win the award again in New York. The Liberty, who missed the playoffs a year ago, lead the East with a 12-5 mark.
"There's a confidence in what we have and a discipline in who we are," Charles said. "We have a great leader in Tanisha Wright. We have great chemistry and character on our team. It's cool."
Charles is in her second year in New York after insisting on a trade from the Sun to her hometown team prior to the 2014 season.
"To play at home has been what I wanted it to be. I grew up as a Liberty fan and to wear the uniform is what I've hoped for," Charles said. "I still have a weight on my shoulders with how I'm supposed to perform and my role on the team. But my teammates have respect for me and believe in what I can do."
She also has taken Stokes under her wing and Stokes -- who broke Rebecca Lobo's single-season record for blocked shots last winter -- has been everything New York has hoped for and more. In 17 games, she is averaging 5.6 points on 55.2 percent shooting from the floor, 6.2 rebounds, and 2.6 blocked shots in 24.4 minutes.
"Kiah's been amazing,” Charles said. "I hope she gets the Defensive Player of the Year. She's doing great things for us. We know that if we get beat defensively, she's always there for us.
"What Asjha Jones was for me when I was here in Connecticut I'm trying to be for her. Anything that Kiah needs, I'm going to try and be there for her."
UConn fans in Connecticut can come to Mohegan Sun Arena to see Mosqueda-Lewis and Stokes in action in the near future. Seattle visits the Sun next Friday, July 31. The Liberty travel to casino for games Aug. 14 and Aug. 29.