The 2013 WNBA Rookie of the Year, Elena Delle Donne of the Chicago Sky, is ready for greatness. Most WNBA players supplement their income by balling overseas during the offseason, but Delle Donne chose to stay in the Windy City to work on her body and game.
Chicago’s swift playoff exit at the hands of the Indiana Fever in September forced Delle Donne to get back in the lab. Daily grueling workouts that included an hour and a half of strength training and 30 minutes of agility and conditioning has the former Delaware Blue Hen prepared to do battle.
SLAM spoke to Delle Donne at Chicago’s media day about her off-season workouts, the departure of forward Swin Cash and her goals for the 2014 season.
SLAM: The 2014 WNBA season is finally here.
Elena Delle Donne: I’m really excited. I feel like the offseason took a little while. I’m really waiting for game one. I can’t wait to get back on the court. Everybody is looking really good in training camp. Obviously there is a lot to still work on, but I’m happy with the way the team is progressing.
SLAM: What has training camp been like so far?
EDD: It’s been great ‘cause we have so many new players, so it’s been interesting trying to catch everyone up to speed. But everybody has been working really hard and picking up things pretty well. I’m happy with the way it’s gone.
SLAM: Which rookie has impressed you the most?
EDD: [Laughs] I don’t know if I can answer that directly, but every day one might impress me a little bit more than the day before. They’re all improving and getting better each day, so I’m thrilled with that.
SLAM: The Sky chose not to renew Swin Cash’s contact. How is the team different?
EDD: It’s definitely a little different. Obviously she’s a big time leader and had a great voice. We’re really working on that. Everybody else is now trying to step up as leaders and we’re trying to hold our own and figure it out.
SLAM: Are you ready to be the leader of the Chicago Sky?
EDD: Yes, certainly.
SLAM: Everybody has talked about your workouts, now you’re playing games in practice, right?
SLAM: What’s the difference that you see in your game now as opposed to last year from your workouts?
EDD: Just a lot stronger and able to endure games longer. I’m able to last through practices and not get as sore as last year. I remember just being so dead and tired and now I’m able to withstand all of that. I can tell it’s helped.
SLAM: Do you feel like you’re better suited to play the 3 verses the 4?
EDD: Yeah, I do. I worked a lot on my guard skills this offseason so that’s helped a lot. I feel like I can play more of the guard but I’ll be playing both, 3 and 4, but I have been playing a lot more 3.
SLAM: How will the team adjust to not having Sylvia Fowles on the court?
EDD: Everybody is going to have to step up because that’s not a role we can fill with one player. She’s way too good for that. Everybody is going to have to play a little bit outside of themselves and step up until she can come back and get healthy.
SLAM: How excited are you to go down to Orlando and play in the Preseason Tournament?
EDD: I’m really excited because we’ll be able to be in that tournament type of atmosphere and it’s a great preparation for the season. Obviously some of our players aren’t even back yet, so it’ll be interesting to see what’s going on there. The type of playing time, you don’t get as much in pre-season games, but it’ll still be a really good challenge. There are good teams out there.
SLAM: Is it a strong test to play Indiana in two out of your first three games?
EDD: [Laughs] That’s always good. They’re a great team so we’re excited we get to face ‘em early.
SLAM: What’s the goal this year?
EDD: To win a championship.