A star is born for the Sky in Elena Delle Donne
From blue-chip high school recruit to an All-American career at the University of Delaware to the Chicago Sky of the WNBA, Elena Delle Donne's dominance on the basketball court has transcended itself on every level.
There was little doubt among experts that the 6-5 wing player was going to be a star in the WNBA, but even Delle Donne said leading the league in All-Star votes was a surprise, especially for a rookie.
Through Tuesday, Delle Donne, who is fifth in the league in scoring (18.8), led all players with 16,761 votes. Los Angeles Sparks guard Candace Parker was second with 15,623.
"That was shocking," Delle Donne said of her vote total. "It's an awesome and humbling feeling."
Delle Donne was part of a highly touted draft class that included Brittney Griner and Skylar Diggins. The three received extensive media coverage, but Delle Donne has played the best of the three.
Her success on the court also has spilled off the court.
"Our fans are great," Delle Donne said. "I never thought I'd get recognized walking on the street, too."
In addition to her popularity among fans, Delle Donne has helped the Sky to a 7-4 record and second place in the Eastern Conference.
The Sky visits the Liberty (5-6) at 3 p.m. Sunday at Prudential Center in Newark.
Delle Donne's road to the WNBA wasn't without a few twists and turns. She committed to the University of Connecticut out of high school, only to abruptly change course and eventually enroll at Delaware. Delle Donne wanted to be closer to her sister Lizzie, who has cerebral palsy.
Delle Donne attributed part of her early pro success to her days at Delaware.
With the Blue Hens, Delle Donne was double- and triple-teamed almost every time she touched the ball. Being the primary ballhandler at times and seeing so many different defenses taught her how to read the court better and how to get her teammates involved.
"I saw every kind of defense in college," Delle Donne said. "The players are too good in the WNBA to double- and triple-team one person."
Facing one-on-one coverage has given Delle Donne more room to operate and more of an opportunity to exploit mismatches.
"I love it. It's been incredible," Delle Donne said of facing WNBA defenses. "The players are quicker and stronger, but it's almost always single coverage. I get a lot more freedom."
Delle Donne also credited her teammates for making her transition into the league a smooth one.
Chicago's veteran core, including Epiphanny Prince, Sylvia Fowles and Swin Cash, has made Delle Donne feel at home on and off the court.
She isn't the focal point of the offense as much as she was at Delaware, but thanks to her height and superb ballhandling skills, Delle Donne is counted upon to create matchup problems.
"I'm not playing point guard, but when I get a rebound, I bring the ball up the court," she said.
It hasn't been all roses for Delle Donne, who suffers from Lyme disease. The symptoms, which include migraines and heavy fatigue, forced her to miss 12 games her sophomore season at Delaware. But it hasn't been a problem lately.
"I found a good treatment and I have more time to take care of myself," she said. "It's not like in college where I have to go to class after practice. Now I can go home and really take care of my body."