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A nice lift for Sky’s Elena Delle Donne

INDIANAPOLIS IN - SEPTEMBER 22: TamikCatchings #24 IndianFever defends ElenDelle Donne #11 Chicago Sky game two WNBA Eastern Conference Semi

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 22: Tamika Catchings #24 of the Indiana Fever defends Elena Delle Donne #11 of the Chicago Sky in game two of the WNBA Eastern Conference Semi Finals on September 22, 2013 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

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Updated: March 20, 2014 6:40AM



Immediately after the clock expired in the Sky’s collapse against the Indiana Fever in the first round of the WNBA playoffs, Elena Delle Donne ran straight to her strength coach. Already looking ahead to next season, she asked, ‘‘When can I start lifting?’’

The WNBA Rookie of the Year never expected to be eliminated so quickly in the Sky’s first playoff appearance.

‘‘I wasn’t strong enough — my endurance wasn’t there,’’ she said. ‘‘I wasn’t able to play a full 40-minute game. . . . Now, if I wake up in the morning and I’m a little tired, I think back to that game and I’m like, ‘OK, I have to go lift.’ ’’

Unlike most Sky players, Delle Donne chose to stay in Chicago for the offseason. The ability to focus on building strength played a large part in her decision, she said, even if some days can be grueling.

‘‘The first few weeks were hard,’’ she said. ‘‘Washing my hair was miserable, lifting my arms above my head — I am not making this up. It was so painful.’’

‘‘She even needed help getting dressed,’’ Sky coach Pokey Chatman joked. ‘‘That’s why she went home to Delaware, so her mom could take care of her.’’

Delle Donne will return to her family again, this time with her team in tow, for the WNBA’s first preseason game in Delaware. The Sky will play the Washington Mystics on May 13 at Delle Donne’s former home court, the Bob Carpenter Center at the University of Delaware.

‘‘The last time I left that court, I had tears in my eyes and was saying goodbye to my fans,’’ said Delle Donne, who first played there in eighth grade. ‘‘It’s been my dream my entire life to go back as a professional athlete. . . . It’s not going to feel like a preseason game because the fans will be crazy.’’

Delle Donne, the second overall pick in 2013, was part of the highly publicized ‘‘Three to See’’ draft class that included Skylar Diggins and Brittney Griner. The 2014 draft will play out much differently for the Sky, which has a pick in each of the three rounds, including the 10th overall pick.

‘‘You have to have plan A, B, C and D,’’ Chatman said. ‘‘When we had a top-four pick, we were zeroed in on just a few players.’’

Chatman said the Sky plans to draft by position first and looks to bolster its bench, specifically targeting point guards and power forwards.

The Sky opens the regular season exactly where it left off last year, with a game against the Fever. Chatman said she looks forward to resolving the teams’ unfinished business.

‘‘They’ve had our number for a while,’’ she said. ‘‘We lost with a bad taste in our mouths.’’



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