Sunday, August 17, 2008

Elena Delle Donne shocks U.Conn by dropping out of college

With the Olympics in the news and the start of football season only weeks away, this news nugget easily slid onto the agate pages of your local sports section...but recent high school graduate Elena Delle Donne, who was enrolled at the University of Connecticut, and was supposed to be the next star of the U.Conn Lady Huskies basketball team has dropped out of college...Delle Donne was the Female High School Basketball Player of the Year in the U.S. last season...for more about this story is an article which appeared in Sunday's Hartford Courant...

Delle Donne Not Coming To UConn

Courant Staff Writer

August 17, 2008

Elena Delle Donne, the reigning Naismith player of the year and the prized UConn women's basketball recruit, has told the university she will not accept her scholarship and will likely seek a future without basketball.

UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma confirmed the decision Saturday, releasing a statement: "I have recently been informed that Elena Delle Donne has decided not to play college basketball and will not enroll at Connecticut. Everyone at UConn wishes her the best of luck."

Delle Donne, who is expected to make a statement Monday, had decided to attend UConn last year after an intense recruiting battle with Tennessee. She would have been the third consecutive national player of the year to attend UConn, following Tina Charles in 2006 and Maya Moore last season.

Delle Donne could not be reached for comment.

With a deft shooting touch and extraordinary size for a perimeter player, the 6-foot-5 Delle Donne was expected to be an additional element to a team thought to be the preseason No. 1 this season.

Delle Donne left the summer session after just two days in June, and she had been spending her summer at home with her family. The fall semester begins Aug. 25.

Delle Donne averaged 29 points and 11 rebounds last season and led Ursuline Academy to the Delaware state title.

"This is nothing out of the ordinary," Auriemma told The Courant when Delle Donne left summer session. "It happens all the time. Maybe she's just not ready to make the move [away from home] yet."

A few days later, Delle Donne said she was taking a personal break with no timetable to make any decisions. She said the break had nothing to do with UConn and told that her decision was the result of problems "so much deeper than basketball. ... I have a lot of personal issues to fix. Only my family understands what's going on."

Ernie Delle Donne, Elena's father, told The Courant at the time that he was pleased with how UConn had dealt with the situation.

"The way Geno Auriemma has handled Elena's personal situation should make every little girl in America want to play for him," he said. "That man is an incredible individual."

Delle Donne also took off last summer, saying she needed time to get away from basketball and the recruiting process. By doing that, she passed up the chance to play for USA Basketball's U-18 team that featured Moore and won a gold medal. Her senior season was then complicated by mononucleosis that forced her to miss 10 games.

The Huskies played in their first Final Four since 2004 last season and were being touted as overwhelming favorites to win the national championship in 2009 with Delle Donne joining a strong returning team, featuring senior Renee Montgomery, junior Charles and sophomore Moore, a first-team All-American and Big East player of the year as a freshman.

Delle Donne was to be the icing on the cake on this year's team, which includes freshmen Caroline Doty, a guard from Doylestown, Pa., guard Tiffany Hayes of Winter Haven, Fla., and center Heather Buck, Connecticut's two-time player of the year.

Delle Donne's talent always brought praise.

"Let's hope that she's just tired of it all right now," analyst Debbie Antonelli told The Courant in June. "The game needs a talent like her in it. A lot of people felt she could have started in the WNBA when she was a sophomore in high school. That's a lot of pressure to put on a kid. I hope for her, as a young woman about to start a new phase in her life, that she can resolve it and move on. I feel for her. I feel for her parents. She has had a lot to deal with."

There has been repeated speculation that Delle Donne is simply homesick. She is very close with her sister Lizzie, who is deaf, blind and has cerebral palsy. Elena has often commented on how difficult it would be to leave her sister.

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