Sky rookie Elena Delle Donne eager to show her skills to home fans
BY SARAH TROTTO For Sun-Times Media May 30, 2013 9:54PM
Elena Delle Donne, DeWanna Bonner, Candice Dupree
Updated: May 31, 2013 12:16AM
Elena Delle Donne admitted she experienced butterflies before her WNBA debut. But that was normal, the same she had felt before college games.
Delle Donne cast aside any nervousness and scored 22 points, the sixth-most for a debuting rookie, in the Sky’s 102-80 victory over the Phoenix Mercury on Monday in its season opener.
Delle Donne will play her first home game Friday night when the Sky faces the Connecticut Sun at Allstate Arena. An All-American at Delaware, Delle Donne could guide the Sky to its first winning season and playoff appearance in its eighth season.
“The first day of training camp we talked about [reaching the playoffs],” she said. “We said it was going to be our main focus.”
Versatility is a significant asset for the 6-5 guard/forward.
“We all have 11-man rosters, so if you can pick up a player who can play three, possibly four positions, it helps,” Sky coach Pokey Chatman said.
The season opener featured the draft’s top two picks — Delle Donne and Brittney Griner, the No. 1 selection. Griner dunked twice and finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and four blocks, but Delle Donne’s team got the victory.
“All I focus on is winning and doing what I need to do to help my team win games, so I didn’t get caught up in all the hoopla, the Brittney-Elena stuff,” Delle Donne said.
With the addition of Delle Donne and the presence of shooting guard Epiphanny Prince and center Sylvia Fowles, both All-Stars, the Sky has confidence after a season in which it went 14-20 and finished fifth in the Eastern Conference.
Fowles and Prince are healthy after injuries forced them to miss games last season. Fowles averaged 16.2 points and 10.4 rebounds. Prince averaged 18.1 points, fourth-best in the WNBA. Also back is Olympian Swin Cash, who averaged 10.6 points.
“They’re hungrier,” Chatman said. “There are some holes we filled in free agency and the draft. I know every other team is better from Washington, New York, Connecticut, Atlanta — and Indiana won it all last year. That’s just talking about our side of the league. We know it’s going to be a challenge.”
The Sky’s next opponent is a favorite to win the title. The Sun went 25-9 last season and reached the East finals.
“They have a lot of experience, and they run great transition offense,” Delle Donne said.
“There’s a lot of excitement. We’re thrilled to be home and playing in front of our fans.”