Delaware Star Impressed But Undaunted By National Spotlight
By: Matt Janus
Little Rock, AR- Awe-inspiring does not begin to do justice to the performance turned in by Elena Delle Donne on Sunday afternoon. All the University of Delaware junior did was drop 39 points in 30 minutes as she single-handedly out-scored the Hens’ first-round NCAA tournament opponent, UALR, by nine points at the time of her departure from the game. The result was the first national postseason tournament win in school history.
Delle Donne’s arrival on the national stage turned the basketball world upside down. She was trending on twitter right after the contest, and even drew a tweet from NBA star Kevin Durant the next morning. Although she is normally unfazed by attention, these latest developments have even her somewhat amazed.
“I almost had a heart attack,” Delle Donne said about finding out Durant had reached out to her through social media. “Actually my roommate (Meg McLean) at like nine in the morning was like, ‘Elena, Elena’ and I wasn’t ready to get up yet. But she said, ‘Not to wake you up or anything but Kevin Durant just tweeted you.’ And I was like, ‘alright I’m up, let’s go!’ So that was by far the most exciting thing for me.”
Ever the team player though, Delle Donne is quick to make sure to share the limelight with her teammates and keep everybody focused on the end game.
“Yeah I mean it’s very exciting what’s going on for this entire team,” the CAA player of the year said. “We definitely have a lot of attention on us now after having that first game on ESPN, so we’re soaking it in, but we’re focused. Obviously all that attention is great, but we are here to win basketball games and that’s really all that matters.”
It is exactly that attitude which might be the most impressive thing about Delle Donne. Maybe it’s the product of being the center of attention since she was in the seventh grade, maybe it’s the result of being taught the right way by her parents or perhaps it is the result of learning from past experiences. Who knows? Whatever IT is though, Delle Donne seems to handle every situation she’s encountered at Delaware with poise. That helps keep all the Hens grounded and following their year-long philosophy.
“Our team has been great at staying focused on the next game,” Delle Donne said. “Our motto the whole year has been, ‘Eyes Forward,’ so that means eyes forward on the next game and not too far ahead obviously. Coach does a great job keeping us focused and I try to keep us focused as a leader on this team. I really feel like it hasn’t been a problem all season because if you don’t win that next game you’re not going any further, so why focus on what’s ahead?”
As Delle Donne spoke, you could almost see a small smile on her coach, Tina Martin’s face. That is exactly what a coach wants her team thinking and saying in a tournament setting, As Delaware prepares for its second round showdown with Kansas on Tuesday (9:30 p.m. on 1290 The Ticket, 94.7 WDSD and 1410 WDOV), one thing is crystal clear. The Hens’ season won’t end because they got caught reading their own press clippings. Not bad news at all for a program spending its first stretch in the national spotlight.