Here at DT, we’ve been watching women’s pro basketball player Elena Delle Donne since she was a kid at Ursuline Academy, where she dominated girls hoops like no other local athlete in the history of local sports. She is the only Ursuline player to score more than 2,000 points during her high school career, she set the national record for successful free throws—80 consecutive in 2005-2006—and she led the team to three straight state titles. Not bad.
College was to bring more of the same. Elena averaged 26.7 points per game, the third-highest average among all Division I women’s basketball players, during her first year as a Lady Hen at the University of Delaware (2009-10). Also in 2009-2010, she set a season record for the greatest number of points in a single game. And among other stellar accomplishments, she was named the Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year in women’s basketball. No man has ever won both awards in the same season. In her junior year, Elena led the nation in scoring.
Little has changed since she went pro and joined the Chicago Sky in 2013, when she led players in votes for the season’s WNBA All-Star Game—a first for a rookie. Chicago magazine recently printed the following statistics with its story “The New Superstar in Town,” which is reprinted in the print version of our August 2016 issue as “Superstar”: a player efficiency rating of 32.7, the third-best in WNBA history and better than Michael Jordan’s in his stunning 1987-88 season with the Chicago Bulls; a league-leading free-throw percentage of 95, with a season record of 58 straight baskets; and an average of 23.4 points per game, the equivalent of 28.1 in an NBA game. Her counterpart as league MVP? The electrifying Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors, which made the finals for the past two years straight.
Three Warriors have been named to the 2016 USA National Basketball Team, which travels to the Olympics in Rio do Janeiro this month. So has one of the Sky: Our Elena. Her prodigious talent has won our respect and admiration. But more important, she has won our hearts. A global ambassador for the Special Olympics, she remains devoted to her big sister Lizzie, who is deaf and blind. Delaware could not ask for a better person to represent our nation in the world’s greatest athletic competition.
With her go Olympic veteran Katelyn Falgowski and first-timer Caitlin Van Sickle, key members of the National Field Hockey Team. The Delaware natives may have made their reputations and careers at the University of North Carolina, but they are ours just the same. You can read about them in “Olympics 2016 Preview.” If you have ever been awed by someone’s single-minded pursuit of personal excellence, you will, I think, enjoy Michael Bradley’s excellent profile. We wish them all the best in Rio. We also thank them—and all the other Delawareans who have gone to the Olympics before them—for making us proud.