Elena Delle Donne has spent her whole life in Delaware.
That’s hardly a secret.
But she says she’s done a lot of maturing since famously walking away from a Connecticut women’s basketball scholarship five years ago. At least part of the reason for leaving was being homesick.
“When I decided to go back to college basketball and play at Delaware, I was an 18-year-old girl,” said Delle Donne. “I’ve been able to grow since college and live away from home and really just experience new things.
“Now I’m 23 years old. I’m a 23-year-old woman and I’m ready to take that next step in basketball.”
On Monday night, the Blue Hen legend will officially earn her wings.
There’s no doubt that Delle Donne will be one of the top three players selected when the WNBA Draft is held on Monday night in Bristol, Conn.
Indeed, the women’s pro league and ESPN are basing their draft marketing campaign around the top three players — Baylor’s Brittney Griner, Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins and Delle Donne.
‘The Three to See,’ they’re calling it.
The draft is being held in prime time (8 p.m.) and shown live on ESPN. Both are firsts for the event.
Delle Donne’s star power is a big part of the whole thing.
“Elena Delle Donne is kind of one of those once-in-a-lifetime players,” said coach Gary Kloppenburg, whose Tulsa Shock have the third pick in the draft.
“Highly-skilled at 6-foot-5, she can play every position. We haven’t seen a player like her come into our league. I guess the comparison is to (Seattle’s) Lauren Jackson but, in a way, she’s got an even greater skill set than even Lauren with her ability to put the ball on the floor.”
“This class has been special for years,” said Diggins. “People have been talking about this class. I know everyone’s so excited. The buzz around the WNBA is as big as it’s ever been.
“There’s a lot of players who have the potential to come in, make an immediate impact and be franchise players for their teams.”
Delle Donne won’t be the highest pro draft pick ever from Delaware. Former UD lacrosse star John Grant was taken first in the 1999 Major League Lacrosse draft.
And she won’t be the first Blue Hen selected by a WNBA team. Dover native and Polytech High grad Tyresa Smith earned that distinction when Phoenix took her with the No. 18 pick in 2007.
But, considering the extra attention being paid to this year’s WNBA Draft as well as Delle Donne’s noteriety, it should be a pretty special moment for Delaware sports fans.
“It’s something I’ve dreamnt of my entire life,” said Delle Donne, who admits to being a Sheryl Swoopes’ fan when she was younger. “Now that it’s here, I’m thrilled about it. I’m ready to make that next move.
“It’s a dream come true finally being able to play professional ball. I’m going to be thrilled wherever I end up.”
With Griner considered a lock to go with the No. 1 pick to Phoenix, that would leave Delle Donne going to either Chicago at No. 2 or Tulsa at No. 3. Diggins would instantly sell tickets in Chicago with its big Notre Dame fan base.
That’s not to say Chicago would pass up Delle Donne, though.
The fifth-leading all-time scorer in women’s basketball history (3,039 points), there’s no telling what the All-American might be able to do when she’s not being constantly harrassed by defenses designed to stop her. In a lot of ways, it’s a whole new world that will be opening for Delle Donne on Monday night.
“I definitely am looking forward to the WNBA and not having to play against those box-and-ones, triangle-and-twos - just odd defenses,” she said. “I think it’s going to be fun just kind of playing more straight-up basketball. I saw that a lot with USA basketball and it was really enjoyable.”
Odds & ends
•Several Caesar Rodney High teams have some pretty impressive winning streaks going. The Riders’ soccer girls have won 60 straight regular-season games, CR’s golf team is unbeaten in 54 matches in a row (it has one tie in that stretch), while the Riders’ boys’ and girls’ tennis squads has both won 48 consecutive matches.
•Little League opening ceremonies aren’t just for Saturday mornings any more. Both Dover and Camden-Wyoming Little Leagues are holding their opening ceremonies this Friday night. Dover’s is slated for 5:45 p.m. with C-W’s at 6.
•The Delaware football team, with new coach Dave Brock, is holding a scrimmage at Milford High on Saturday at 2 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. The parking lot opens at noon for tailgating (no alcohol is permitted) while boys and girls ages 4-12 who register by Wednesday (at bluehens.com
) can participate in pre-game drills with selected players.
Even the Hens’ big inflatible helmet is slated to make the trip downstate for fans to walk through. Full details are at bluehens.com
•Dover’s Will Smith had an interesting moment on Tuesday afternoon. A first-year assistant coach for the Milford High softball team, he was coaching in the Buccaneers’ softball game at Dover.
But on the adjacent baseball field, Smith’s son Seth Penniston — who plays for Dover — entered the contest as a reliever in the Senators’ game against Milford. Smith quickly switched modes — and fields — to cheer for his son on the baseball diamond.