BRISTOL, Conn. — For the past four seasons, Elena Delle Donne has been the face of the Delaware women’s basketball program.
Now the All-American will be asked to play much of the same role for the Chicago Sky.
The Sky took Delle Donne with the second pick of Monday night’s WNBA Draft in Bristol, Conn. Only Baylor star Brittney Griner, taken by Phoneix with the overall No. 1 pick, went before the Wilmington native.
It was another big moment in a big year for Delle Donne.
“I am excited to play in the absolute best women’s basketball league in the world and against the best players in the world,” said Delle Donne. “I’m thrilled for this opportunity to play for the Sky and continue my basketball career in Chicago. This is definitely a dream come true for me. This is an experience of a lifetime and I couldn’t even imagine how great tonight was.”
Delle Donne became just the second Blue Hen selected by the women’s professional basketball league. She joins Polytech High grad Tyresa Smith, the No. 18 pick in 2007.
The draft selection comes just a few weeks after Delle Donne led the Blue Hens to an unprecented 32-4 season that included the program’s first trip to the Sweet 16. She finished as the fifth-leading all-time scorer in women’s college basketball history.
As a senior, Delle Donne averaged 26 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and 1.9 assists in 30 games for UD.
“I am absolutely ecstatic for Elena and her family,” said Delaware coach Tina Martin. “This is a proud moment for the University of Delaware and our women’s basketball program.”
“It’s been quite a whirlwind of emotions through these last six or so weeks,” said Delle Donne commented. “What my teammates and I did at Delaware was incredible. These are all moments where I want to just sit back and soak it all in.”
The Chicago Sky opened the 2012 season with a 7-1 record before injuries to key players put a damper on a campaign that ended with a 14-20 record. After averaging only 75.2 points per game (eighth out of 12 teams), the Sky could use the scoring punch that Delle Donne should provide.
Promoted as one of the ‘Three to see’ by the WNBA, along with Griner and Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins, Delle Donne will have a lot expected of her right away with her new team. She was already being promoted on Chicago’s website Monday night.
“Elena’s complete skill set for a player that stands 6-5 along with her basketball IQ is what makes her such a special player,” said Chicago general manager and coach Pokey Chatman. “Simply put, she can hurt you in a variety of ways on the offensive end of the floor. She met the challenge of carrying her team into the national spotlight, and I believe that journey will serve her well as she embarks upon her WNBA career.”
Chicago was led on-court last season by Epiphanny Prince, Sylvia Fowles and Swin Cash.
Prince averaged 18.1 points and 3.1 assists per game while Fowles put up a double double of 16.2 points and 10.4 rebounds per contest. Cash is one of only two players to play in all 34 games for the Sky in 2012, as she also started all 34 and averaged 10.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists.
“The Sky have a phenomenal team and I feel like I will fit in really well into that system,” said Delle Donne. “Playing alongside Courtney Vandersloot, Sylvia Fowles, Swin Cash and Epiphanny Prince will be awesome. I cannot wait to get to Chicago and start working with my new teammates and coaches.”
Delle Donne and the Sky open their pre-season on May 15 with a game against New York in the Jacoby Dickens Center in Chicago.
The Chicago Sky’s regular season begins on May 27 as Delle Donne and her teammates travel to Phoenix to take on the Mercury on ESPN2 at 5 p.m. The team kicks off its home slate on Friday, May 31 against Connecticut.
Chicago will play its second national TV game on Sept. 11 against Phoenix at 5 p.m. ET, also on ESPN2.