In second grade, Elena Delle Donne pestered her older brother Gene into taking her to a basketball training session. As little sisters do, she pestered him to let her play until he gave in and, to get her off his back, threw a pass behind her.
She caught it behind her back and did a reverse layup.
From then on, big brother not only let her play, but also trained her.
Elena won her first AAU championship when she was 12. North Carolina offered her a scholarship when she was 13. She went to Nike All-American camp when she was a sophomore — and kept getting better. During high school, recruiters from the best schools in the NCAA tried to woo her. The biggest names in women’s basketball — Pat Summitt, Geno Auriemma and Gail Goestenkors wanted the 6’5″ guard to play for them.
UConn got the nod. Elena seemed destined to be another of Geno’s stars – next in the Huskie’s line of big names with Bird, Taurasi, Charles and Moore.
But after two days at UConn, in the middle of the night, Elena left Connecticut and went home. She didn’t pick up a basketball for months. At the time, she thought she might never play again — she hated the sport for forcing her to choose it over her family. By going home, she was rectifying what she believed was the wrong decision.
Fortunately for women’s basketball fans, Elena realized that the game wasn’t to blame for her unhappiness — and now she plays for Delaware. She’s the nation’s leading scorer, averaging 27.5 points a game. And if it weren’t for a certain Baylor phenom, she would be a shoe-in for Women’s College Player of the Year.
Here’s her story – have a tissue ready. If you can’t watch the video, you can read Elena’s story at ESPNW.
Sunday, Elena led the Delaware Blue Hens to its first ever NCAA postseason win with 30 points. Tonight they play Kansas to go to the Sweet 16 — and I expect a win. Although the prospect scares me a little, I would love to see Elena Delle Donne and Brittney Griner go toe-to-toe.
Are you a Delaware fan? How far do you think they’ll go in the tourney?