From the Sports Editor: Making US Olympic Team ‘dream come true’ for Delle Donne

delle donne 2015There isn’t much that Elena Delle Donne hasn’t accomplished in her storied basketball career.

But there isn’t much that the Delaware native wanted more than a spot on the U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball team.

So Wednesday was a red-letter day for Delle Donne when she found out she had received just one of 12 roster berths on the U.S. squad for the Rio Summer Olympics.

“It’s so hard to even put it into words,” Delle Donne told USA Basketball. “When Carol (Callan, from USA Basketball) told me, it was emotional.

Just to think this entire basketball journey I’ve been on has been absolutely incredible, but this has been by far the pinnacle of my career and the best news I’ve ever heard.

“It’s absolutely a dream come true. I’ve just been soaking it up today and it’s amazing and a humbling experience as well, with how special and talented this pool of players is.”

Delle Donne is believed to be the first former University of Delaware athlete to compete on a U.S. Olympic squad.

Delle Donne’s legion of First State fans will get the chance to see her play in person today when she and her WNBA Chicago Sky teammates play an exhibition game at the Carpenter Center.

The Sky will be taking on the New York Liberty at 2 p.m. in an exhibition game in Newark. Tickets are still available for the contest.

Ironically, playing on the Olympic team will give Delle Donne the chance to play for Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma, who is also the U.S. head coach.

Delle Donne, of course, originally signed with UConn before abruptly leaving the school as well as the sport. After a year playing volleyball at Delaware, she eventually returned to the basketball court with the Blue Hens and found the college stardom so many predicted for the versatile 6-foot-5 player.

“Yeah, it’s crazy to think that there was a time that I put the basketball down and thought I would never play again,” Delle Donne said on Wednesday. “And now to get here, it’s unbelievable. I wouldn’t trade any part of that journey, I feel like it really makes this moment that much even more special.”

On Wednesday, Auriemma said that Delle Donne is “obviously one of the most talented players in the world.”

The two have long since put her UConn departure behind them and developed a new relationship as coach and player. Auriemma said the biggest issue with Delle Donne’s game right now is simply her lack of international experience.

“But Elena is a quick learner,” he said. “It hasn’t taken her very long to establish herself in the (WNBA) league, being MVP of the league last year. I know that because she’s not limited to one thing on the floor, she can help this team in numerous ways.

“I feel like I know her a little bit,” Auriemma added. “I feel like I know what makes her tick. I think I can get to her in a way that she understands. I’m sure that she’s going to be nervous. She’s going to be anxious. She’s going to be all those things. Our relationship is great, and I would expect it to get even better.”

Delle Donne said she’s always loved the Olympics. And it wasn’t just the basketball, but sports like gymnastics, swimming and beach volleyball as well.

“I was just a huge fan of the Olympics in general, all the different sports, even track and field,” she said.

Now Delle Donne actually gets to be part of it.

Riders rolling

The fact that the Caesar Rodney High golf team is cruising through its Henlopen Conference schedule again is hardly a surprise.

The Riders, after all, haven’t lost a match to a Henlopen team since 2009.

But in a sport where your constant competition is the course itself, CR is also putting up some pretty impressive numbers.

The Riders (12-0) have scored 158 or less in six straight matches. That string is topped by a season-low score of 152 at Wild Quail on April 20.

CR scored in the 150s only three times all last season. The Riders have done it seven times this year already.

And those are the best numbers for CR since 2012, when the Riders scored in the 150s a total of 13 times before winning the second of three straight state titles.

“We’re doing OK,” said CR coach John Newman. “Hopefully our best golf is still in front of us.

“Kind of the neat thing for us is it hasn’t been the same four guys. It takes pressure off. If it’s the same four kids every time, and if one of those kids has a bad day, it’s tough. If you have six guys capable of a pretty good score, hopefully they feed off of each other. I think that’s kind of what’s happening.”

Odds & ends

•Sussex Central High’s 1989 undefeated state championship squad (21-0) will be the first team inducted into the Delaware Baseball Hall of Fame when this year’s induction takes place on June 13 at Frawley Stadium.

Former Lake Forest High coach Bill Falasco will also be among six individuals going into the ‘Hall’ this year. The other inductees include Haverford College coach Dave Beccaria (Salesianum), Caravel coach Paul Niggebrugge (Dickinson), Cliff Brumbaugh (William Penn/Delaware), who played with three teams in the majors, John Tirrell, a contributor to Midway Little League for over 50 years, and the late Fran Lucia, who was a longtime contributor to American Legion baseball.

•St. Andrews Bob Colburn, a fixture in the Delaware high school baseball coaching ranks, has announced he’ll be retiring after 55 seasons. The 78-year-old coach has played a big part in promoting the sport through things like the All-State team, the Blue-Gold All-Star Game and the Carpenter Cup Tournament.

•Dover High’s nonconference football schedule for 2016 includes games against Henlopen South teams Woodbridge and Lake Forest along with Baltimore Poly and Salesianum.

•The four-time Division I state champion Padua girls’ soccer team is ranked No. 24 in the country again this week.

•Of the 51 coaching vacancies in Division I men’s college basketball this year, Delaware is now one of just three schools yet to hire a replacement. It’s been 43 days since UD fired former coach Monte’ Ross.

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