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Monday, April 19, 2021

Next Stop for Delle Donne: WNBA (We Think)

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Kevin Noonan
Kevin Noonan
Kevin Noonan has covered and commented on the Delaware sports scene for more than 30 years, everything from amateur recreation leagues and high schools to local colleges and the Philadelphia professional teams. He’s been voted Delaware Sportswriter of the Year multiple times and currently covers the Philadelphia Eagles for CBSSports.com and teaches creative writing courses at Wilmington University.

There are three possible phases in Elena Delle Donne’s basketball career and she has now completed two of them – high school phenom and college All-American.

Up next is another big challenge — the WNBA, which holds its annual draft in just two weeks, on April 15.

Delle Donne’s remarkable college career ended on Saturday when the University of Delaware lost to Kentucky in the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament, the furthest any Delaware team has ever gone and the furthest it will ever go. What made that career even more enjoyable for local fans was having it happen in Newark, so the same people who followed Delle Donne throughout her championship days at Ursuline Academy were able to follow her as she led the Blue Hens to unparalleled heights.

That will change now, however, since the WNBA doesn’t have a franchise in Newark, or even Philadelphia.

Nobody knows where Delle Donne will end up after the April 15 draft and, to be honest, nobody knows how she’ll end up. The WNBA is much different that college and even the Colonial Athletic Association is a pretty good league, Delle Donne rarely saw the kind of talent she will see every night in the WNBA.

By the way, we’re not even sure Delle Donne wants to play professionally. She’s never really discussed the subject and since she gave up basketball once already, it’s not too much of a stretch to see her deciding she doesn’t want to leave the friends and family that lured her back from Connecticut to Delaware in the first place.

If she does decide to play in the WNBA, she would probably be the second or third overall selection. It’s a given that Baylor center Brittany Griner will be the No.1 overall pick and then it comes down to Delle Donne or Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins.

Washington has the No. 1 pick and will, of course, take Griner. The Nos. 2 and 3 picks go to Phoenix and Tulsa, respectively, and both of them are a long way away from Delaware. At least you can get a non-stop flight to Phoenix – how many connections does it take to get to Oklahoma? So much for the glamorous life of a pro athlete.

As for how brightly Delle Donne’s star will shine in the WBNA, that’s anybody’s guess. The pace is much faster and the players are much more athletic and the schedule is much more demanding. Delle Donne could have trouble matching up and keeping up with some of those superior athletics, especially on the defensive end. Plus the WNBA season can be a grind physically and mentally and it remains to be seen how well Delle Donne handles that part of it.

On the other hand, she might finally get to play in a game where she doesn’t have three and four players guarding her all the time. The quicker pace and more wide-open game in the WNBA will give Delle Donne a lot more opportunities for clean looks at the basket, something she almost never got at Delaware. And even though she’ll be the star of any team on which she plays, she won’t have to carry the whole load like she did so many times with the Blue Hens.

We just don’t know and that’s what will make it so much fun. The hard part for us will be getting the Tulsa Shock games on local television.

 Contact Kevin Noonan at knoona32@aol.com.

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The number of variant cases continue to rise, but the state only tested 92 samples last week.

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