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posted: 4/12/2013 7:12 PM

Will Sky be the limit for Delle Donne?

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  • Delaware's Elena Delle Donne is the Chicago Sky's likely WNBA draft choice Monday.

      Delaware's Elena Delle Donne is the Chicago Sky's likely WNBA draft choice Monday.
    Associated Press

 
 

There's only one scenario in which the Chicago Sky won't select Delaware forward Elena Delle Donne with the second pick of Monday's WNBA draft (7 p.m., ESPN).

If -- and this is a big if -- Baylor center Brittney Griner decides she is better off foregoing the WNBA to follow Mark Cuban's suggestion of trying out for the NBA, then Phoenix would likely snatch up Delle Donne with the No. 1 pick.

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I don't see that happening. Phoenix will take Griner and the Sky will take Delle Donne, a dynamic, high-upside player whom I feel much better about now than I did a few short months ago.

One question I've always had about Delle Donne was how she would fare against top-level competition. Sure, she tore up the run-of-the-mill Colonial Athletic Conference. But she showed this season that she could stand out against national powers such as Kentucky, North Carolina and Maryland, as well as a tough Villanova team out of the Big East. Delle Donne averaged 26 points per game this season, second best in the nation, and was nearly unstoppable in leading Delaware to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

The bigger questions I had pertained to Delle Donne's personal life. For starters, she has Lyme Disease and missed some games this season because of a flare up.

But she said during a teleconference Thursday that her condition, which can affect the heart and joints, is under control and she is in close contact with her doctors.

"I am not too concerned about it," Delle Donne said. "Obviously, they (WNBA teams and coaches) have asked about it. But they know I'm in good health and that I have ahold of it. They are willing to work with me and my doctors."

Another issue that has come into question about Delle Donne has been her willingness to leave home. The top high school player in the country in 2008, she had originally signed with Connecticut. But she returned home to Delaware the day after she got there, citing her family, specifically her older sister Lizzie, as a big reason for her change of heart.

Lizzie, 27, cannot see, hear, walk or talk. A virus disrupted her development in the womb. Delle Donne has looked after, and has been inspired by her sister for as long as she can remember. She realized she would have a hard time being away from Lizzie as soon as she arrived at UConn.

So would living in Chicago, or in any other WNBA city, be another difficult personal move for Delle Donne?

"When I decided to go back to Delaware, I was an 18-year-old girl," Delle Donne said. "I've been able to grow. I'm a 23-year-old woman now. I'm ready to take that next step. It's been a dream of mine to play professional basketball."

The Sky is dreaming, dreaming that Delle Donne, who is 6-feet-5 and has guard-like shooting and ballhandling skills, will be a dream pick, the missing piece to the puzzle. That dream will start to become a reality on Monday.

The other draft:

There was a moment of levity Thursday during the WNBA's draft conference call that featured a few of the coaches from the league.

Mike Thibault, the head coach and general manager of the Washington Mystics was trying to offer some insight into his pick at No. 4.

"The joke around here is that I'm the first pick of the other draft," Thibault said with a laugh.

Indiana head coach Lin Dunn popped in: "That's not a joke, it's the truth."

While the first three picks (Baylor's Brittney Griner, Delaware's Elena Delle Donne and Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins) of Monday's draft are essentially a foregone conclusion, it will be interesting to see which players are selected next.

After picking at No. 2, the Chicago Sky has only one other pick, No. 4 in the third and final round.

UConn do it:

Lesson learned. Never count out UConn, winner of the NCAA women's basketball national title game on Tuesday by a record 33-point margin.

Granted, it's not like I had the Huskies losing in the first or second round of the NCAA Tournament or anything ridiculous like that. I actually had them reaching the Final Four.

But of the most elite teams in the country, the teams I figured would get to New Orleans and have the best chance of winning a national title, UConn was near the bottom of my list.

I just figured this wasn't UConn's year, that UConn was very good, but a bit young, and that teams like Baylor and Notre Dame were more championship-ready.

But head coach Geno Auriemma did a great job of bringing along his two best players, freshman Breanna Stewart and sophomore Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis. Stewart scored 23 points against Louisville in the title game and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.

Now the burning question is: How many championships can this team win in a row?

Swooping in:

How about this for some interesting breaking news?

Loyola announced late Friday that it will conduct a news conference Monday morning to introduce its new women's basketball coach.

For many, no introduction is needed -- the Ramblers hired former WNBA great Sheryl Swoopes, a four-time WNBA champion, a three-time Olympic gold medalist and the first woman to have a Nike basketball shoe named after her (Air Swoopes).

By the looks of the information provided by Loyola, this will be the first head coaching position for Swoopes at any level.

"I am extremely honored and humbled to be chosen to lead the Loyola University Chicago women's basketball program," Swoopes said. "Loyola is a special place and I immediately felt welcome here.

"Having played for some of the game's best coaches as well as with and against some of the most talented players in women's basketball history, I have broadened my knowledge and hope to use those experiences to bring championships to Rogers Park. There is a lot of talent already in place and I cannot wait to get into the gym and get started."

pbabcock@dailyherald.com

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