Sunday, August 17, 2008

Delle DONE

The news of Elena Delle Donne deciding to not only pass on the opportunity to play for UConn wasn't all too shocking. I actually thought the news wouldn't break until the end of this week. My guess is UConn and Delle Donne knew for sometime. That's why the story breaks on a Saturday -- it's harder to find people to talk about what happened.

Everyone had their take on how this saga, if you will, would play out. My gut feeling had been that she would not return after leaving in June. Speaking to Delle Donne's close friend, Caroline Doty, last month made me more convinced of the outcome.

That is all irrelevant.

What matters is the part that blindsided so many: The shocking news that the talented player has apparently given up on basketball. Was it the pressure of being the latest great thing? Maybe Elena couldn't bear to be away from her sister, Lizzie, who has special needs.

I spoke to Elena and her father, Ernie, about this relationship in January. At the time, both said being close to home was important. Maybe Storrs wasn't close enough.

She's a nice, sweet girl who was at a tough juncture. It's unlike anything you or I have had to deal with. Sure, college can be scary. But what about when you have the weight of he world on your shoulders before you ever take a class and you are expected to carry that weight over your head with extended arms?

This is all a guessing game until Elena or her family speak publicly. As loquacious as Geno Auriemma is, I doubt he'll have much to say until his former prized recruit opens up.

How much does this hurt UConn? Not much. Anyone who thinks this is a blow to its prestige or is related to the whole Tennessee controversy is looking to make up tall tales.

What Delle Donne meant to this year's Huskies team is what it would have been like to add LaDanian Tomlinson to the New England Patriots.

Right now, I hope that Delle Donne is OK. She needs to be for this decision to stick. Don't be surprised in a year she pops up at Villanova. If that happens, she will be vilified, unfortunately. To walk away from basketball, something you've given most of your life for, just seems like a drastic measure.

But, if this is truly a young woman ready to take charge of her life and understands that no matter how good you are at something, that skill doesn't define you, then whatever angst is out there towards her should vanish. After all, she's showing a maturity well beyond her years.


greg8370 said...

Never say never...maybe she takes a year off or and finds her way back here.

Joe said...


She's not coming back. Geno so far has refused to release her from her scholarship, which means she can't play basketball anywhere.

He's clearly ticked off by all of this. My friend Mel Greenberg from the Philadelphia Inquirer said that recently Delle Donne -- or her father -- gave UConn the go-ahead to include her in the team's media guide and the family even made its deposit on Elena's living quarters on campus.

This was either a tough, borderline decision or an elaborate ruse.

If Elena decided she wanted to come back to UConn after a year or even six months away, I have a hard time believing Geno would welcome her with open arms. Even if he did, the likelihood that her teammates would is far less.