Sky’s Delle Donne devotes offseason to playing in U.S.
BY KALYN KAHLER For Sun-Times Media November 10, 2013 7:56PM
USA Women’s National Team Mini-Camp
Updated: November 10, 2013 11:45PM
Elena Delle Donne might seem crazy to turn down a six-figure salary.
But the Sky’s leading scorer and WNBA Rookie of the Year said she knew before the start of the season that she wasn’t interested in playing overseas for a salary likely twice her WNBA salary. Instead, she chose to stay in the United States for the offseason to train, coach basketball camps and market her brand.
“I’m turning down a lot of money to do this,” Delle Donne said. “But it’s also about enjoying yourself, being happy and having a passion for what you do. Being here and doing this right now is definitely what I want to be doing.”
Delle Donne said her sponsorships from Nike, DuPont and nutritional supplement company Genesis Today give her financial freedom that the majority of players lack. The 2013 WNBA salary range ($37,950- $107,000) leads many to sign six-figure contracts to play overseas.
“If people are going overseas, you forget about the WNBA,” Delle Donne said. “It’s only a short season, so I think it’s very important for players to stay over here and be in the public eye.”
Eight WNBA teams currently provide information on the offseason status of players. Of those 88 players, 76 percent chose to play overseas.
“Their shelf life as a professional player is pretty short,” Sky head coach Pokey Chatman said. “So it’s difficult for me to ask them to walk away from three to five times the amount of money they make here.”
Chatman said it’s nearly unheard of for a marquee player like Delle Donne to stay for the offseason.
“We cooked up the perfect soup with Elena’s situation,” Chatman said. “She is such a dynamic person, and it’s important that people get to know that. People can’t believe how humble she is — that’s important for her brand because it brings them in.”
Like Delle Donne, Chatman is spending her offseason in the U.S. for the first time after coaching professionally for Russian Spartak Moscow Region during her first three offseasons as a WNBA head coach. Assistant coach Christie Sides also is staying to work with Chatman and Delle Donne.
In Chicago, Delle Donne said she hopes to build her own brand and the Sky’s by coaching Sky High Hoops clinics starting in November and continuing each month during the offseason. She’ll also coach her personal camp, the Delle Donne Skills Academy, at home in Delaware and in Chatman’s home of Louisiana.
“It will help with marketing because little girls can see women’s basketball players and wear their shoes instead of always having to wear the men’s shoes and look up to the men’s players,” she said.