This is not what we wanted for Elena Delle Donne’s final basketball season at the University of Delaware, for her or for us. That season is just getting started and Delle Donne has already missed six of out seven games as she battles a lingering case of Lyme disease, which forced her to miss 11 games in the 2010-2011 season.
The No. 1 thing, of course, is her health. Dealing with the symptoms of Lyme disease isn’t fun and for an active young woman with so much to do, it must also be frustrating as heck to be held back by something over which you have no control. Plus Delle Donne knows how much the Blue Hens and their fans depend on her and she takes that responsibility seriously.
By the way, if you don’t know who Elena Delle Donne is or what she has accomplished, well, do a Google search – we don’t have the time to explain, except to tell you that she’s the most decorated high school athlete in Delaware history and a first-team All-American in college.
We have no idea how Delle Donne’s illness will affect her the rest of the season. We’re assuming she’ll come back at some point and finish her senior season in style. And that’s where we have to admit that we’re a little selfish about this — even though we know Delle Donne’s current health and future well-being are the biggest concerns, we also want to see her play. And we’re not alone. Attendance of women’s games last season was an all-time high and the women drew more fans to the Bob Carpenter Center than the men’s team.
Delle Donne, of course, is the draw and the straw that stirs the drink – with her in the lineup, the Blue Hens were ranked No. 7 in the entire nation in the preseason polls; without her, the Hens aren’t even in the Top 25 anymore.
But Delaware does have other good players, including Danielle Parker and Lauren Carra, who was just selected as the Colonial Athletic Association co-player of the week. And even though Delaware played almost the entire season so far without their best player, the Blue Hens are 5-2 and that’s not bad.
It’s also not a surprise. Coach Tina Martin has been at Delaware for 16 years now, turning out winning teams and responsible citizens. And as long as she’s the coach, the Hens will be competitive and sometimes a little more than that.
But this is different. This is once-in-a-lifetime. Martin had Delle Donne drop into her lap through unusual circumstances and she knows the odds of that happening again — another player with Delle Donne’s credentials coming to Newark — are slim and none and slim just accepted a scholarship to a Big Ten school.
The Delaware faithful also know that this is a lightning bolt that won’t strike Newark again and they want to get the full effect. And for long-time Delle Donne watchers, the ones who followed her career when she waged those epic battles with Khadijah Rushdan when they were at Ursuline Academy and St. Elizabeth High, respectively, this is the final chapter.
Unless, of course, Delle Donne writes a sequel by playing for the U.S. Olympic team or in the WNBA. Until then, we just hope she gets healthy and can once again play the game she loves with the passion she has shown ever since she first laced up her sneakers for the Blue Hens.
Contact Kevin Noonan at firstname.lastname@example.org.