COLLEGE PARK, Md. (CBS Local) — Kaila Charles is one of the best players in recent memory to play for the University of Maryland women’s basketball program and now she’s making a name for herself as a member of the Connecticut Sun in the WNBA. The Maryland native and 2020 Third-Team All-American is currently in Florida in the WNBA bubble competing in her first professional season.

COLLEGE PARK, MD – DECEMBER 06: Kaila Charles #5 of the Maryland Terrapins drives to the hoop against the Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers at Xfinity Center. (Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images)

Charles recently started her first game for the Sun and had a career high 15 points in a game against the Chicago Sky. The WNBA rookie grew up in Maryland, playing high school ball at Riverdale Baptist in Upper Marlboro, went to the University of Maryland and is living and playing basketball outside of the state for the first time in her life.

“All of the veterans have helped me and especially the Maryland alums Brionna Jones and Alyssa Thomas are always talking to me on the court and off the court. They made my transition easier,” said Charles in an interview with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith. “I’ve never left home. I was born in Maryland, went to Maryland and I was able to come to a team with familiar faces. I knew them and that made the transition easier.”

The Connecticut Sun are 2-6 so far in the WNBA season and face the Dallas Wings on Wednesday night. Charles grew up in Maryland admiring Michael Jordan, the late Kobe Bryant and WNBA legend Diana Taurasi. The former Terps star credits the state of Maryland with making her the basketball player and woman she is today.

“The state of Maryland made me who I am, specifically [Prince George’s] County,” said Charles. “I was born and raised in [Prince George’s] County and I think that’s why I’m so tough and competitive and why I’m the player and person I am today. I love being from Maryland and love the fact that I represented Maryland from when I was born to college and now I’m putting on for my city in the WNBA. I just want to keep it going and represent Maryland the best way I can. A lot of talented players come out of Maryland and I want to make sure people see that. We have a lot of talented players, especially in [Prince George’s] County. I want to show the world that [Prince George’s] County breeds good athletes and good people.”

Kevin Durant and Victor Oladipo are just two NBA stars to begin their basketball careers in PG County. In addition to representing in home state, Charles is also focused on being a role model for Black girls and boys who can watch her playing professional basketball on TV.

“What’s going on in our country is something that personally affects me,” said Charles. “It affects me and everyone in my family. Being able to use our platforms to promote social justice is just great. I love the fact that the WNBA is so supportive and made this our mantra this year. We’re going to Say Her Name and fight for social justice. That could be me. I’m a Black woman living in America and I’m a Black woman before I’m an athlete. I want to use my voice to help my community. Thousands and millions of people are watching are games and seeing Black Lives Matter on the court. They’re seeing our jerseys and slideshows before the games of women who were wrongfully killed. In our league, the majority of women are Black women. I’m glad they’re supporting their players and really pushing this movement.”

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