Saturday, March 30, 2013

Thank you, Elena Delle Donne

I was homesick once. I mean really, really homesick. I wanted adventure in college, so even though I was a political science major at the time, why the heck would I want to stay in my hometown, Washington, D.C.? Of all places, I ended up in West Lafayette, Ind., at Purdue University, a school, some say, that sits in the middle of a cornfield. I went there alone on a plane from D.C. to Chicago and then a puddle jumper to West Lafayette. I arrived at Earhart Hall and before I ever saw the inside of my dorm room, I dialed home on the phone from the lobby. As I stared at my suitcase still sitting on the curb outside, I said to my mom, "I want to come home."

Elena Delle Donne was homesick once. She arrived in Storrs, Conn., seemingly so far away from the familiar back home in Delaware. She only stayed a few days, and the rest, as you know, is history. Not just Delaware history, women's basketball history.

Elena played in her final collegiate game on Saturday, leaving the sport as the fifth all-time leading scorer in NCAA history with 3,039 points. That's an amazing statistic, obviously, on its own merit, but more astonishing given the roller coaster best seller that became Delle Donne's career. Basketball burnout followed by a volleyball stint, stepping in a pothole and hurting her foot, mysterious illness that turned out to be Lyme Disease and then a recurrence of those Lyme symptoms this year, causing her to miss even more days, more games.

Many wanted EDD and the Hens to have one more game in them, as it seemed an uncanny possibility that she might find her team matched up against those very same Huskies who recruited her. Kentucky saw to it that it didn't happen.

I've heard harsh words from some fans in the CAA and still an occasional rant from the UConn folks about Elena, and to them I say this. We -- the CAA, women's basketball, women's basketball fans and us, LadySwish -- were lucky to have Elena Delle Donne for the last four years. What a joy she is to watch on the court -- guard skills on a 6-5 frame, unselfish despite her capabilities,  range from every spot on the floor and smarts. Off the court, she gave genuine answers to questions the media never tired of asking, including the ones about the Huskies. She's bright and witty and funny -- a mainstay on the CAA All-Academic team -- and genuine, a role model to young girls and young women whether they play basketball or never pick one up.

No doubt, her college career started rough. How many players can we count on our hands who have transferred for far lesser reasons than wanting to be closer to home, closer to their sister, who cannot see, hear or speak? Who can find fault with a hometown girl playing in her backyard, bringing pride to a program that became a nationally prominent one thanks to her presence?

Most of us lament what we've lost when it's gone. The real truth is we blame ourselves for not appreciating it while it was there. We at LadySwish have spent four years plus appreciating Elena Delle Donne -- (we even snuck in to her final high school game to get a glimpse of the special skills she had back then).

We're writing to say thank you, Elena. We can't wait to see you in the WNBA. We'll miss you in the CAA, but we're so glad that we enjoyed this ride.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for such a nice piece on a very special person. We Delawareans take pride in our own and could not be prouder or better represented. We have enjoyed the ride this year (and last) and her entire career in Delaware. Elena will undoubtedly be successful in her future and we will have to share her with a larger audience. It is wonderful that her story has been told and that many others can appreciate it too.

    John Martin