Q+A: Elena Delle Donne
SLAMonline talks to the Chicago Sky’s first-round draft pick.
by Sherron Shabazz / @SherronShabazz
The Chicago Sky is off to its best start in franchise history, winning its first three games of the 2013 WNBA season, due largely in part to rookie forward Elena Delle Donne. The second overall pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft is having one of the best starts for a rookie in WNBA history, while also outplaying her fellow members of the 2013 “Three To See,” Brittney Griner and Skylar Diggins.
In Delle Donne’s debut, she was matched up against the 2013 No. 1 overall pick, Griner of the Phoenix Mercury, and outplayed her with ease. The former University of Delaware star put up 22 points, 8 rebounds, 4 blocks and 2 assists. The poise and confidence shown by Delle Donne is unusual for a rookie.
“In the first half we passed the ball to her in the high post and she felt someone small on her and she backed it up—that’s poise,” Sky head coach Pokey Chatman said.
“We spend half our careers telling players, ‘Slow down, baby, so you can see it,’ and she has that. Sometimes people may mistake it for her not being into it. She’s into it, she’s thinking it, and she’s seeing it. She understands we have to play off of her and through her and it’s only going to get tougher.”
Delle Donne continued her stellar week with a 92-71 defeat of the third member of the 2013 “Three to See,” Tulsa’s Diggins. Delle Donne scored 15 points on 6-14 shooting while making all three of her attempts from beyond the arc.
Delle Donne is getting it done on both ends and ranks in the top 10 in scoring and blocked shots in the WNBA. Over her first three games she’s averaged 19 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 2.7 assists per contest. Delle Donne is shooting 45 percent from the field, 75 percent from behind the three-point line, and a perfect 9-9 from the charity stripe. According to Coach Chatman, the best is yet to come.
“She’s smart,” Chatman said. “She’s reading situations. I think what you haven’t seen is that she is a really good passer. A lot of times when players get in traffic, it’s really hard, but she’s 6-5 so she can see the defense. So I think she’s handled these first three games really well, and she is going to continue to work. We challenge her defensively because she is out on the perimeter a lot more, and that’s been top of the line.”
SLAMonline caught up with Delle Donne to discuss the impressive start to her professional career.
SLAM: After the draft, how does it feel to finally put everything aside and just play ball?
Elena Delle Donne: [Laughs] It’s great to finally just be able to play ball because that’s what I love doing and that’s why I’m doing this. All the craziness, the media, and all of that, was great and all, but this is what I want to do—be on the court playing.
SLAM: Your debut game in Phoenix was special. You seemed like you were totally comfortable even though it was your first game. Did you have any jitters?
EDD: I always have a little bit of butterflies before games but it wasn’t anything crazy. It was normal butterflies. I felt like we were really prepared through practice. My teammates have been helping me along the way so I was very comfortable.
SLAM: It seemed like at some point you flipped a switch and decided to be aggressive. Do you have the green light from Coach Chatman to be assertive offensively at any point during the game?
EDD: Yeah, I do have the green light. A lot of times she yells at me ‘cause I don’t shoot it enough. Sometimes I’ll pass up an open shot or hesitate a little bit and she doesn’t want that at all. I do have the green light from her, which is a great thing to have.
SLAM: What was it like going up against Brittney for the first time?
EDD: She’s very long [laughs]. You get in the paint and her arm just extends. I don’t even know how she got that far out and was able to make that block. She’s impressive on defense for sure and obviously her dunking is pretty impressive, too. She’s a great player and we were fortunate to get her in foul trouble ‘cause we were going to attack her and get her to try to block shots to get her in foul trouble.
SLAM: Have you kept in touch with Brittney and Skylar at all to discuss each other’s rookie transitions?
EDD: I really haven’t talked to them much. We’ve all been so busy with training camp and so much going on. It was good to see her and say hi but now we just move on to our next games.
SLAM: Because of all the attention that was given to the three of you, a lot of men who have never watched women’s basketball are going to watch now just to see you in particular. Are you comfortable being a sex symbol?
EDD: [Laughs] Yeah, I’m comfortable with it. We do need to get more men viewing the game. That’s something we’ve been lacking. Hey, if they’re watching for people being pretty or whatnot, it’s good. They’ll watch because of that and once they watch they’ll say, “Wow, these girls can play.” That’ll get ‘em drawn into it but then they’ll see how impressive our league is.
SLAM: You and Piph seem to have chemistry on the court. Talk about what it’s like playing with Epiphanny Prince and how will your role change when she goes to Russia for a month?
EDD: Epiphanny is such an incredible player. She can make a play out of anything! The shot clock will be going down and she’ll cross someone over and get a three and it’s amazing. Not only that, but we can play pick-and-roll with one another. We’re really good at reading each other, knowing what each other is comfortable with, and that’s something that’s been great for me thus far. When she leaves it’s definitely going to be tough because she’s a scorer. She puts points up on the board so everybody is probably going to have to pick up their scoring.
SLAM: Is it important for you to win Rookie of the Year?
EDD: No. It’s important for me that we win games. When you’re winning games everything else takes care of it self. My focus is always on winning games. Everything else comes after that.
SLAM: What goals do you have for your rookie season?
EDD: We want to make it to the playoffs and do something that this program has never done before.
SLAM: What’s your favorite thing about Chicago so far?
EDD: I think the options, actually ‘cause being from Delaware you have the movies or the mall—here, there are so many options. So I’m going to go with all the options that it brings me [laughs].