Elena Delle Donne helps Sky on court, in stands
BY KALYN KAHLER firstname.lastname@example.org June 28, 2013 11:04PM
Elena Delle Donne leads the Sky with 19.4 points per game and a 94.2 free-throw percentage (49-for-52). | Gary Dineen~Getty Images
Updated: July 30, 2013 8:51AM
Pokey Chatman remembers watching Elena Delle Donne play AAU ball as a promising preteen.
A decade later, Chatman watches Delle Donne drain basket after basket during practice at the Sky’s training facility in Deerfield. Chatman, the Sky’s coach, said she never imagined that the tall, lanky girl she scouted years ago would be playing for her.
“As that became a possibility, I have to admit you go back to those AAU days and summers when you would sneak a peek just to watch her team play,” Chatman said. “It really is a small world.”
Delle Donne, the second pick in the WNBA draft this year out of Delaware, entered Friday third in the league in scoring with 19.4 points per game. She already is a contender for rookie of the year.
Along with Brittney Griner of Baylor and Skylar Diggins of Notre Dame, Delle Donne is part of the “Three to See,” billed by the WNBA as the trio of rookies to watch.
After the recent retirement of WNBA stars Tina Thompson, Sheryl Swoopes and Ticha Penicheiro, the “Three to See” are ushering in a new era for the league. Delle Donne’s season debut against Griner and the Phoenix Mercury was the most watched WNBA game on ESPN2 in nine years, attracting 455,000 viewers.
“People come out to see them,” Sky center Sylvia Fowles said. “They don’t care about who’s been in the league for 15 years. They come to see those three. Just to have them in our market, it makes the WNBA better.”
Through four home games, the Sky’s average attendance is 6,655.5, an increase of more than 1,000 from last season.
The 6-5 Delle Donne is built like a post player but has the skills of a guard. Her teammates and coaches point to her versatility as the reason for her strong start.
“Even though she is my size and height, her skills are like a guard,” said the 6-6 Fowles. “She can get down there in the post, but she can also extend it to the three-point line, and not too many people can do that with her size.”
Chatman said Delle Donne’s versatility has made the Sky’s 11-player roster more efficient.
“When you have a player that can swing to two or three different positions, it makes your roster bigger and it gives you freedom to move it around,” Chatman said.
In its eighth season, the Sky has yet to make the playoffs or finish with a winning record. Delle Donne is proving to be the scorer the Sky needs to change its fortunes.
“It’s definitely a different energy [this season],” Fowles said. “We’ve got somebody that can score from that 3-4 position, and that’s what we’ve been missing for years.”
Delle Donne led Delaware to its first NCAA tournament victories and its first Top 25 ranking. She looks forward to repeating her trailblazing tendencies.
“I am in a position again to make history for a program, and I love doing that,” Delle Donne said. “Both me and my teammates are excited to really do stuff that this program has never done before.”