Delaware’s Delle Donne a force unlike any other
Published: Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 06:03
A collective sigh of relief was let out when the West Virginia women’s basketball team found out it did, in fact, earn an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament.
After the initial excitement had passed, the Mountaineers took a step back and began to analyze their situation, including their opponent and the location of the game – something head coach Mike Carey said is a mixed blessing.
"We got a really good draw. We have to play on Delaware’s home floor, and that’s a good draw for us because it’s close, so hopefully we can get some fans there," he said.
The Mountaineers may have a strong showing of supporters, but that doesn’t necessarily help them contain Delaware’s 6-foot-5 forward Elena Delle Donne.
"(Delle Donne) is a big time player, needless to say. Some of their other players are very good, so you can’t just concentrate on her and let the other players have a career night," Carey said.
"We’re going to have to be aware of where she’s at and try to do a good job on her but also do a good job on the rest of them."
Delle Donne, a consensus first-team all-American, is the country’s second leading scorer, averaging 25.3 points per game. She is also the team’s leading shot blocker (63 blocks) and second leading rebounder (230).
Delle Donne is a transformative figure in today’s women’s game as she provides an unparalleled combination of size, scoring and athletic ability.
Jim Crowley, the head coach of St. Bonaventure, experienced her myriad skills up close when the Bonnies visited Delaware last season.
Powered by Delle Donne’s 26-point, 18-rebound performance, the Blue Hens cruised to a 61-49 home victory. Crowley, who was interviewed for an ESPN article about Delle Donne published earlier this March, said her rare skill set is rivaled by few others in women’s basketball today.
"For our game, she’s changing it," he said in the article. "I just think the way she can do so many things and it appears so effortless – obviously, she’s put an incredible amount of time into her game and getting better, but she elevates over people. She moves without the ball. She does all that stuff within a 6-foot-5 really athletic skill set," he said.
"I think that’s the progression. It’s not a kid doing all those things who is 5-foot-8. It’s a kid doing all those things at 6-foot-5."
Though many are not surprised by Delle Donne’s success, her path to the spotlight has been a windy one.
Delle Donne was the nation’s top women’s basketball recruit in 2008. The McDonald’s all-American was sought after by every major program in the country, including Connecticut and famed head coach Geno Auriemma.
Delle Donne, though, spurned the Huskies’ scholarship offer and put basketball aside, instead opting to play volleyball at Delaware.
Her decision was the result of being burned out; she said her life had revolved around the sport, and the basketball prodigy received her first scholarship offer in the seventh grade decided, at the time, that basketball was not what she wanted to do.
After a year as a middle hitter on the Blue Hens volleyball team, Delle Donne elected to return to the hardwood. And in her sophomore year – her first on the basketball team – she finished third in the country in scoring,
averaging 26.7 points per game.
Nearing the conclusion of her collegiate athletic career, Delle Donne is getting a chance to reflect.
During the Colonial Athletic Association Conference tournament, Delle Donne became just the 13th player in NCAA women’s basketball history to score 2,900 points in a career – a feat made more impressive considering she did it in three years.
"Our focus today was just to have fun on the floor together," Delle Donne said after Delaware’s 75-54 win over Hofstra in the CAA semifinals.
"The season is wrapping up and we want to enjoy these moments. We need to enjoy it while it lasts and have fun. We always play better when we’re having fun."
In the NCAA tournament, though, one loss can end a season, and for some, a career.
Sunday, when West Virginia meets Delaware in their first-round game, only one team can have the fun and advance to the round of 32.