Sky's newest star ready for the pressure
The Sky's top draft pick, 6-foot-5 swing player Elena Delle Donne, handles pressure as easily as she handles a basketball. The Sky's first exhibition game is May 16.
Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer
In some ways, life in the WNBA will be all new for Elena Delle Donne.
In others, it will be more of the same.
The Sky's top draft pick, and the No. 2 overall pick in April's 2013 WNBA Draft, was all smiles Thursday, excited to share details of all the neat things she has done since arriving in Chicago. From practicing with new teammates, to throwing out the first pitch at a Cubs game to eating Chicago-style deep-dish pizza for the first time and shopping the Mag Mile, Delle Donne says her life since draft night has been a whirlwind of fun and new adventures.
"I'm really excited about being here," said Delle Donne, a 6-foot-5 sharpshooting forward out of Delaware. "It was pretty awesome to be at Wrigley and get a Cubs jersey with my name and number on the back. And the pizza at Giordano's was so good. It could be a bad addiction for me. I've also been to Gibson's Steakhouse and RPM, and Howard Stern was there when I was there. It was cool. I've done a lot in the city so far. I've been to a lot of new places."
But as the focus turns more to basketball with training camp starting, Delle Donne finds herself in a familiar spot. She's the "It Girl" once again.
At Delaware, Delle Donne, best known for the inside-outside versatility of her game, had the weight of the program on her shoulders from Day One. She was the first option on every play, she was the most-followed player by fans and media. Expectations for her were through the roof for every game.
Not much will change with her new team. While Delle Donne will have more help here than she did at Delaware, her shoulders will still carry significant weight. She is regarded as the missing piece to a Sky puzzle that has been eight years in the making.
The Sky has yet to make the playoffs in its seven years of existence. Many believe Delle Donne is the kind of player who can push the franchise over the top in Year 8.
"It's something that I'm not nervous about because it's something I handled every single day at Delaware," Delle Donne said of the pressure of carrying a team.
"I think pressure is good and makes people better. To have that pressure on myself is a great thing. It will make me work harder and harder every single day to improve."
Sky coach Pokey Chatman already likes Delle Donne's work ethic. She's conducted a handful of practices with the team since Sunday and has been impressed with how easily her prized rookie is picking up the system.
"She's been great," Chatman said. "Elena can be a post player or a guard so she's in both places and it's kind of been an overload of information for her, but she's handled it. I think part of it is her basketball I.Q., her desire. But it's also some of the returning players have been very helpful to her.
"She's really taking it all in and she's going to be a great addition for us."
Guard Allie Quigley is hoping to add herself to the final roster. The former DePaul star has been a 3-point specialist over her four-year WNBA career and was signed to a training camp contract in March. She's played for four teams, with her most recent stop with Seattle in 2011.
With 16 players on the training camp roster, that number needs to be down to 11 players by the start of the season.
A healthy Sylvia Fowles and Epiphanny Prince, who were hampered by injuries last season, headline a long list of veterans who return to the Sky. Forwards Swin Cash, Tamera Young and Sonja Petrovic are back, as are centers Ruth Riley and Carolyn Swords and guards Courtney Vandersloot and Shay Murphy.
The Sky plays a preseason game on Wednesday (11:30 a.m.) against the New York Liberty at Chicago State University. The regular season opens on May 27 in Phoenix against top draft pick Brittney Griner and the Mercury. The home opener is May 31 against the Connecticut Sun.
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