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Exactly Where She Belongs

Delle Donne scorches Bulldogs for 41

"I didn’t even know where Yale was located."

Those were the first words that echoed out of Elena Delle Donne’s mouth.

She didn’t realize that she was returning to the state that she left 3 years ago, in the middle of the night, to return home.

She didn’t realize that she was heading back to a state that is still captivated with the thought of what might have been if she had stayed at UConn. After all, her former Connecticut classmates Tiffany Hayes, Heather Buck (redshirt sophomore), and Caroline Doty have only won every game that they have suited up for.

She didn’t realize that she was heading to the state where she was supposed to spend four of the best years of her life.


She found out about a week ago from a reporter that she was returning to Connecticut and not heading to New York, where she thought Yale University was located.

Delle Donne’s journey has been well chronicled. She was the National High School Player of the Year going to the No. 1 program, the University of Connecticut, where she was going to follow in one of her basketball hero's footsteps in Diana Taurasi. She had the world at her feet and walked away from it all on a summer night in 2008 and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

"It wasn’t fun I’ll tell you that," said Delle Donne. "And it took a lot of figuring out to finally get here and realize where I belong. But now that I’m here, I wouldn’t have wanted to go through it any other way because I’ve grown up so much throughout the process."

Excuse the sophomore forward’s geography skills. She is too busy enjoying her time at the University of Delaware being a student athlete to concern herself with where the Ivy League school is located.

"I love my teammates, I love the coaches, I love the school. I am thrilled with my major... I’m just loving where I am, loving life, and the second time around, that’s really all that matters," said Delle Donne.

Delle Donne and her Delaware Blue Hens took on Ivy League contender, the Yale Bulldogs in front of 524 at the John J. Lee Amphitheater. The Blue Hens won 79-61 behind 41 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists from Delle Donne and 11 points and 11 rebounds from Danielle Parker.

Elena displayed a variety of offensive moves. She has the ability to make even the strongest defensive player question their ability. She was defended primarily by Yale’s junior forward Michelle Cashen. Cashen did everything that she could to defend the 5" taller Delle Donne.

"I was trying to pester her as much as I could and make her uncomfortable as possible. But she is going to get hers. I tried my best but she is 6’5" and really talented," said Cashen.

Elena did what she does to most opponents. She hit the ‘3’, then took a step back and hit a deeper ‘3’, she drove, she pulled up, and when denied she put the ball on the floor and pulled up over defenders. Her shot is silky smooth and she has the ability to make even the casual observer ohhh and ahhh.

"She’s the best offensive basketball player I have ever seen," said Yale coach Chris Gobrecht.

While her offensive prowess is well noted her defense leaves a lot to be desired. In 3 games, 116 minutes, she has not picked up a foul, and it’s not because she plays great defense. She is never near the ball on the defensive side of the ball to even challenge a shot. She lets players drive past her, post her up, and is slow to recover when beat.

Yale coach Gobrecht weighed in: "She is carrying the offensive load for that team. She is having to work extremely hard on offense. When you have to work that hard on offensive, and involved in every single play, you have to trade off a little bit."

Looking at her today, it is hard to imagine Delle Donne playing for UConn coach Geno Auriemma or Tennessee coach Pat Summitt. Both exceptionally successful coaches are notorious for making even their super stars put in an exorbitant amount of effort on the defensive end.

In addition to her lack of commitment to the defensive end she lags behind a bit on the conditioning of the game. At times in the 2nd half she was laboring. University of Delaware coach Tina Martin has also taken notice.

"The biggest thing (she can improve in) and we have talked about it, the strength and conditioning factor and she has made improvements," Martin said. "I hope she continues to work at it… I look at the physicality of the game. I want her to continue to get stronger and work on her conditioning."

While Delaware employs a different offensive strategy, Yale had a balanced attack with 4 players in double figures. Ericka von Kaeppler and Allie Messimer had 14 points; Mady Gobrecht had 12  points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists; while Yoyo Greenfield added 12 points, 3 assists, and 2 steals.

Speaking like the coach’s kid that she is, Mady Gobrecht said, "We’re making strides each game but we have more to improve upon. We had too many turnovers and we didn’t board like we should. We played good defense, but not the entire game."

Yale did play good defense for most of the second half. They got out into the passing lanes and forced UDel into 20 turnovers, 14 in the 2nd half. Most of their issues center on their lack of ability to rebound. They got out boarded by 20.

Those issues will hopefully be solved with the addition of two freshman post that Yale was missing. 6’-0" forward Janna Graf and 6’-1" guard/ forward Alexandra Osborn-Jones should be back for the Ivy League season.

"If we step up in those areas (rebounding and offensive execution) like we stepped up on defense tonight, we are going to be a really good team come Ivies and we are going to be a top competitor with Princeton and Harvard," Cashen added.

The Yale Bulldogs will probably not have to face another 6’5" guard/ forward, who shoots from 25 feet out however that 6’5" guard/ forward, Elena Delle Donne, will probably face the question "Why?" for a long time.

"Obviously, they’ve (UConn) moved on. They’ve won their two national championships," Martin said. "The fans bring it up all the time. I wish people would just leave it alone. She’s happy in her life. They’re happy in what they’re doing, obviously. They’ve been successful. We’ve been successful. Honestly, I just wish people would move on and leave it alone. But the people aren’t going to. So this young lady, the extraordinary person that she is, is going to answer everyone’s questions."

There is no question, that she is happy. There is no question, that she is content with herself and her decisions.

There is no question, that she is exactly where she belongs.