NEWARK, NJ – She stood in a corner outside the Chicago Sky locker room, a barrage of cameras, microhones and notepads in front of her.
The media closed in more than some defenses.
Through it all Elena Delle Donne was cooperative, insightful and generally cheerful. A 93-64 win on the road, cynics would say, helps the disposition. True, but in his case this is classic Delle Donne – this is who she is.
In her first year in the WNBA, Delle Donne is already an extremely popular player and a possibility for Rookie of the Year and MVP. A potentially impressive ‘double’.
“I am really humbled by all the attention,” she said. “I really try to take all the accolades in stride and stay focused.”
Delle Donne is not reciting some pre-arranged response. She is, in fact, very even keeled.
“She (Delle Donne) is not the type to have a tough shooting night, not score a lot of points and freak out,” said Chicago coach Pokey Chatman. “If she has an off night she goes back studies tape and simply moves on.”
Delle Donne is quick to credit her Sky teammates for a fast transition from college ball just a few short months into the rigors of WNBA life. She credits one player in particular.
“Swin (Cash) has been unbelievable,” she said. “She has really reached out and guided me to adjust to life off the floor and what I will face on the court.” As Delle Done spoke, Cash had just wrapped up an interview a few feet away. The Sky veteran passed Delle Donne, tapped her on the shoulder adding a smile that seemed to say ‘go rookie’. “Swin (Cash) has been such a big help in my adjustment. I really love the city of Chicago and our team.”
Delle Donne is free of the double, triple teams and combination defenses of college days. That in itself is an adjustment.
“It is nice seeing less defenders,” she said smiling. “But sometimes I will get the ball, expect a double team to come, and rush the shot. I tell myself to take it slower do not force things.”
A coach and/or basketball purist would be impressed to hear her speaking of her concern about defensive improvement.
“I really need to get in my (defensive) stance better,” she confessed.
The roster lists the 6-5 Delle Donne as a guard/forward. In Chatman’s estimation she goes beyond that classification.
“We have her (Delle Donne) play some two, three, four and even five,” Coach Chatman said. “That is a lot of positions over the course of a full schedule. It is demanding what we ask of her.”
Still, Chatman would like to say Delle Donne is a surprise but deep down realizes she is something special.
Entering Sunday’s game with the Liberty, Delle Donne was the league’s top rookie scorer at 18.6 points per game with a six per contest rebounding norm. A model of efficiency facing the Liberty, Delle Donne led all scorers with 20 points, shooting 7-for-12 from the field and adding six rebounds.
With size, shooting and ball handling ability, the physical God given gifts are there. Still, there have been others bestowed with such attributes that have not realized the potential. Delle Donne is different and it starts with the mind, not just attitude but basketball aptitude.
“She (Delle Donne) has an amazing basketball IQ,” Chatman said. “She is extremely poised and her rate of intelligence is great. She just sees so much on the floor and has fantastic recognition.”
It is something you cannot teach. The ability to find open teammates, know their next move and adjust to what the opponent is giving you. Processing information and responding in almost a split second. A virtual sixth sense coupled with talent, making Delle Donne the special talent she is. One who raises the collective games of her teammates.
Delle Donne feels the Sky can “do something special”. She still looks back in loving terms of the run at Delaware. She was very pleased and touched to see family seated at the Rock on a sultry humid Sunday as well as a strong contingent of Delaware Fans in their blue garb. An ongoing connection with the adoring Blue Hen faithful. For Elena Delle Donne, a pleasant reminder of those very special times as she embarks on a very bright future.