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Staley, USA Women’s National Team set to start training camp

Courtesy of ABC Columbia:

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado – With the 2017 WNBA Finals participants set, the roster for the 2017 USA Basketball Women’s National Team training camp now lists 20 of the nation’s top basketball players, headlined by five Olympic and FIBA World Cup gold medalists, who accepted an invitation and are available to participate in the training camp Sept. 30-Oct. 2 in Santa Barbara, California.

Led by 2017-20 USA Basketball Women’s National Team head coach Dawn Staley (South Carolina), the roster includes WNBA stars Sue Bird (Seattle Storm); Layshia Clarendon (Atlanta Dream); Elena Delle Donne (Washington Mystics); Skylar Diggins-Smith (Dallas Wings); Stefanie Dolson (Chicago Sky); Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury); Tiffany Hayes (Atlanta Dream); Jewell Loyd (Seattle Storm); Kayla McBride (San Antonio Stars); Kelsey Plum (San Antonio Stars); Breanna Stewart (Seattle Storm); Kiah Stokes (New York Liberty); Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury); Morgan Tuck (Connecticut Sun); and Courtney Williams (Connecticut Sun). Current collegiate All-Americans who will take part in the camp include: Napheesa Collier (Connecticut); Asia Durr (Louisville); Kelsey Mitchell (Ohio State); Katie Lou Samuelson (Connecticut) and A’ja Wilson (South Carolina).

The camp will be utilized to help identify and prepare athletes for future USA National Team events, including the 2018 USA World Cup Team, and will mark the USA’s first training camp under Staley’s tenure as head coach.

The USA will train at 10 a.m. (PDT) daily, with sessions at Westmont College on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. On Oct. 2, the USA National Team’s practice will be held at the University of California, Santa Barbara Recreation Center’s Robertson Gymnasium.

All 20 athletes possess prior USA Basketball experience. Among the Olympians, Bird and Taurasi are four-time Olympic gold medalists; while 2016 marked the first Olympic gold for Delle Donne, Griner and Stewart.

Bird lists as a four-time USA World Cup Team member and owns three gold medals and one bronze medal at the event; Taurasi has two gold medals and one bronze medal in FIBA World Cup play; and Griner and Stewart were members of the 2014 USA World Cup Team that returned home with the gold medal.

Michelle Clark-Heard (Western Kentucky), Jennifer Rizzotti (George Washington), Sue Semrau (Florida State) and Jeff Walz (Louisville) will be assisting Staley as court coaches during the USA National Team camp.


Original Source: http://www.abccolumbia.com/2017/09/19/staley-usa-womens-national-team-set-start-training-camp/

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Elena Delle Donne has found a home with Washington Mystics

Courtesy of The Washington Post:

Twice now, this 6-foot-5 basketball prodigy has taken her career, and her life, into her own hands with startling force.

The first time, Elena Delle Donne left in the middle of the night. She was 18, burned out, homesick and unwilling to cede any more of herself to the sport. She returned home to Delaware from the University of Connecticut for what she needed — a reprieve — before finding her way back to basketball on her own time and eventually becoming the No. 2 pick in the WNBA draft.

She left again nine years later, this time after spending the first four years of her professional career with the Chicago Sky. She demanded a trade to the team she believed could give her what she wanted — the chance to become a better basketball player, a team culture she could love, and the opportunity to spend more time with her family.

Now with one full regular season and one momentous playoff victory under her belt, Delle Donne judges that her second move, to the Washington Mystics in February, was just as successful as her first.

“I love it here. I really love it,” Delle Donne said emphatically, hunched over and sitting on a massage table after practice this week at Capital One Arena. “I love my teammates. I love my coaching staff. It’s just a great group of people. It’s infectious to be around. I really just enjoy coming to — I mean, I’ll call it work — every day.”

While Delle Donne found happiness in her move to Washington, the Mystics are overjoyed.

Delle Donne raised the ceiling for what Washington can achieve the moment she arrived. On Wednesday, she scored 25 points, one shy of a franchise playoff record, and added 11 rebounds, three assists and two blocks to lift the Mystics past the Dallas Wings and into the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2002. They now head to New York for another single-elimination game against the Liberty on Sunday.

During the regular season, Delle Donne dealt with ankle and thumb injuries and played through pain all while leading the team and ranking fourth in the WNBA with 19.7 points per game. In the regular season, she ranked in the top 15 in the league in rebounding (6.8, 13th), blocks (1.4, eighth), field goal percentage (49.4, 15th), three-point field goal percentage (38.8, 10th) and free throw percentage (95.3, first).

“She’s the biggest presence that we have out there on the court,” point guard Ivory Latta said. “Physically, mentally, everything. She’s a top player in the WNBA, so she attracts a lot, and she opens it up for everyone else. It’s just confidence. She gives us confidence.”

Part of what Delle Donne appreciates in Washington is that, though her talent makes her the largest presence on court, she doesn’t have to be the loudest voice in the locker room.

Krystal Thomas, a sixth-year pro, is one of the team’s most vocal leaders. Latta, who has spent a decade in the WNBA, keeps the locker room energized. Delle Donne, though unmistakably the Mystics’ franchise player, isn’t the team’s sole engine.

Being able to share that responsibility is a break from the norm.

“She’s had to be the star since she was a freshman in high school, and she was a starter on her state championship team as an eighth-grader,” Coach Mike Thibault said. “That’s a lot of pressure.”

Delle Donne craved that type of all-hands-on-deck culture that Thibault has cultivated since he signed on as the team’s coach and general manager in 2012. She has been open to working with him since at least 2013, when the Mystics tried to orchestrate a draft-day trade for Delle Donne with her blessing.

Said Thibault, who has known Delle Donne since she was a junior in college: “I think part of it is she’s family-oriented, and we have tried to develop a culture on and off the court where the players — you don’t have to have best friends, but you have to have a respect for each other and a liking for going to work with each other every day.”

Delle Donne also craved good basketball advisers, and Thibault came highly recommended from friends around the league. He tutored 2012 league MVP Tina Charles and has worked with USA Basketball for decades. Injuries derailed Delle Donne’s progress somewhat this season, but she has been able to work on improving her defense and the superb passing skills that helped make her a star.

“I really feel like I’m improving on court, but also really as a leader,” Delle Donne said. “And that’s what you want to see, is just growth. In all areas.”

As far as winning championships, Delle Donne believes that the Mystics will be WNBA title contenders in due time. Thinking about the future in Washington doesn’t scare her — it’s where she wants to be. It’s the type of situation that makes Delle Donne think about playing in the WNBA longer than she ever previously imagined.

“It’s so enjoyable that I hope my body holds out for many, many years and I can continue to do this, because it’s fun,” she said. “Who wants to go work a 9-to-5? I hope I can last for a long time and be a part of this. Because it’s really special.”


Original Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/mystics/elena-delle-donne-has-found-a-home-with-washington-mystics/2017/09/09/7c363bba-958d-11e7-aace-04b862b2b3f3_story.html?utm_term=.2461f3271a46

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Delle Donne scores 37 as Mystics beat Storm 110-106 in WNBA

Courtesy of Daily Mail:

WASHINGTON (AP) – Elena Delle Donne scored a season-high 37 points and the Washington Mystics beat the Seattle Storm 110-106 in overtime on Friday night.

The victory spoiled Seattle’s Sue Bird breaking the WNBA’s all-time assist record when she recorded her 2,600th career assist in the first quarter to pass Ticha Penicheiro and move into the top spot.

Washington led by three when Emma Meesseman made 1 of 2 free throws with 16.3 seconds remaining in overtime for a four-point lead. Bird was fouled on a 3-pointer five seconds later and hit all three shots to pull Seattle to 102-101. The teams combined for 13 free throws over the remaining 11 seconds and with Seattle down two with 3.8 seconds left Sami Whitcomb intentionally missed a free throw, but Delle Donne secured the rebound and made two free throws at the other end to seal it.

Meesseman added 27 points, eight rebounds and five assists for Washington (18-15), which holds a one-game lead on Phoenix for the fifth spot in the playoffs. The Mercury hold the tiebreaker between the teams.

Despite the loss, Seattle (14-19) clinched a postseason berth due to losses by Chicago and Atlanta later Friday night. The Storm will be the eighth seed.

LYNX 110, SKY 87

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – Sylvia Fowles had 27 points and 12 rebounds for her 20th double-double, and the Lynx topped 100 points for the third straight home game with a victory over the Chicago Sky.

The Lynx set a WNBA record with 35 assists – without injured point guard Lindsay Whalen. They topped the 34 assists that both Los Angeles and Seattle had against Chicago earlier this season.

Maya Moore hit her 461st career 3-pointer, moving past Katie Smith for the franchise record.

Minnesota (26-7) remains a game in front of Los Angeles for the best record in the league. The Sparks, who beat Atlanta on Friday, own the tiebreaker. They’d need a win in their final game and a loss by the Lynx to get the top seed.

Kahleah Copper scored 21 points for Chicago (12-21), which was eliminated from the playoff hunt with the loss.


NEW YORK (AP) – Tina Charles and Epiphanny Prince scored 16 points apiece and the Liberty pulled away in the fourth quarter to win their ninth straight game, beating San Antonio.

New York (21-12) entered the night having clinched a first-round postseason bye and is a half-game behind Connecticut for the third seed. The Sun played at Phoenix later Friday night. The Liberty, who have not lost since Aug. 4, conclude their regular season against the Dallas Wings on Sunday with a shot of matching the franchise record for consecutive victories.

Kia Vaughn and Shavonte Zellous added 10 points each for New York.

Kelsey Plum scored 18 points and Kayla Alexander had 15 points and nine rebounds to lead San Antonio (7-26).


PHOENIX (AP) – Brittney Griner had 20 of her 31 points in the first half and the Mercury clinched a home playoff game with a win over the Sun.

The Sun (21-12) dropped into a third-place tie with the New York Liberty, each with one game remaining in the regular season. Connecticut visits the Los Angeles Sparks and New York travels to the Dallas Wings, both on Sunday. The Liberty hold the tiebreaker.

The Mercury (17-16) finish their season at home against Atlanta on Sunday and will stay in Phoenix. The Mercury can earn the fifth seed with a win and a loss by Washington.

Alyssa Thomas had 19 points and Brionna Jones added 13 for the Sun.


LOS ANGELES (AP) – Candace Parker scored 15 points and the Sparks built an early double-digit lead en route to an easy victory over the Dream.

Los Angeles (25-8) has won six straight and is a game back of the Minnesota Lynx (26-7) for the No. 1 seed into the playoffs. The Sparks host the Connecticut Sun while the Lynx face the Washington Mystics at home to conclude the regular season on Sunday. The Sparks beat Minnesota 78-67 on Aug. 27 and own the tiebreaker over the Lynx. Atlanta (12-21) was eliminated from the postseason.

Nneka Ogwumike and Odyssey Sims added 13 points apiece for the Sparks. Jantel Lavender chipped in 12 points.

Tiffany Hayes scored 19 points to lead Atlanta, which committed a season-high 19 turnovers.

Parker picked up her 1,000th career assist in the first quarter with a pass to Chelsea Gray, who made a 26-footer. Gray hit another 3 on the Sparks’ next possession to cap a 14-2 opening run as Los Angeles built a 43-29 halftime lead. Gray finished with eight points.


Original Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/ap/article-4846070/Delle-Donne-scores-37-Mystics-beat-Storm-110-106-WNBA.html

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VIDEO: WNBA mode included in NBA Live video game for first time, including Elena Delle Donne of Mystics

Courtesy of CSN Mid-Atlantic:

NBA Live is back with a new version after a one-year hiatus and EA Sports has added a brand new feature that is quite cool. For the first time, you can play with WNBA teams including the Washington Mystics and Elena Delle Donne.

The graphics are sweet, too. Check out this video of the gameplay:

That’s not bad at all. Of course, NBA 2K18 is also coming out this fall and the franchise is extremely popular. But maybe NBA Live will win some new fans with the WNBA mode.


Original Source: http://www.csnmidatlantic.com/washington-wizards/video-wnba-mode-included-nba-live-video-game-first-time-including-elena-delle

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Mystics looking for a little rhythm — and luck — heading into the playoffs

Courtesy of The Washington Post:

With three games left in the regular season, the Washington Mystics are taking aim at two marks, one reachable through their own doing and the other requiring considerable assistance.

A win against the Connecticut Sun on Tuesday night at Capital One Arena would guarantee Washington a home game in the WNBA playoffs. The Mystics secured a fourth postseason berth in five years when they beat the Indiana Fever on Aug. 20.

Two losses in a row since have left Washington as a long shot to claim a top-four seed and the accompanying first-round bye. For that scenario to unfold, the Mystics (17-14), now in the No. 5 slot, would need to win out and have either the New York Liberty or the Sun lose each of their remaining games.

The Mystics, losers of four of their past five games, trail third-seeded Connecticut (20-11) by three games and No. 4 seed New York (20-12) by 2½ .

“The biggest thing for me is to be playing better basketball with some rhythm going into the playoffs,” Coach Mike Thibault said. “We’ve had no rhythm at all. It’s just been disjointed really.”

Part of the uneven play, according to Thibault, is attributable to injuries late in the season. All-star forward Elena Delle Donne, for instance, has played two games since undergoing left thumb surgery that kept her out of the lineup for more than two weeks.

The 2015 WNBA MVP’s first practice since the procedure was last Thursday, immediately before a back-to-back, the Mystics’ only such stretch this year. Delle Donne scored 29 points, matching her season high, with 11 rebounds during Saturday’s 83-78 home loss to the Dallas Wings.

Washington had lost to the Liberty, 74-66, Friday night at Madison Square Garden.

“I’m all right,” Delle Donne said. “Obviously all of our bodies are a little tired. I think both were great tests. Unfortunately, we came away with losses in those tests, but they are good games to be in right now, especially with the playoffs right around the corner. A back-to-back is always a struggle.”

Guard Natasha Cloud, a top reserve, has missed the past three games with a partial plantar fascia tear in her right foot. She continues to rehab but may not play again until the postseason, Thibault said, leaving the club even more shorthanded during this critical juncture.

Washington already is without starting guard Tayler Hill, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee in mid-July. She was the Mystics’ second-leading scorer at the time and has missed the past 13 games.

Thibault gave his players Sunday off and had them in film study Monday afternoon, allowing for additional time to rest. The Mystics’ final two regular season games are Friday at home against the Seattle Storm and Sunday on the road against the Minnesota Lynx , which has won three WNBA championships since 2011.

“We’re going to have to get back to work in the couple days before we play a game just to try to get everybody on the same page,” Thibault said of his plans later this week. “It’s going to be hard. I was looking at our games lost to injuries, and I was just shaking my head, not as much just for people being out but being out at different times so you’re always re-scrambling things.”

Turns out Washington will be playing Tuesday night because of another unforeseen circumstance. The Mystics originally had been scheduled to face Connecticut on July 28 in the rubber match of their three-game series, but a leak in the roof at Capital One Arena forced postponement until a month later.

After another leak delayed the Mystics’ game against Indiana for 45 minutes on Aug. 12 — creating the opportunity for a dance-off between the two teams during the interlude — the roof at the 20-year-old arena has undergone repairs, according to Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns and operates the facility, in an effort to guard against additional leaks.

Tuesday’s forecast calls for a chance of rain throughout the day.


Original Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/mystics/mystics-looking-for-a-little-rhythm—and-luck—heading-into-the-playoffs/2017/08/28/fcc8c92c-8c10-11e7-84c0-02cc069f2c37_story.html?utm_term=.7513a6da8789

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Elena Delle Donne’s Nike React Hyperdunk 2017 PE is inspired by the Air Swoopes

Courtesy of Sneaker News:

Back in 1996 when Sheryl Swoopes became the first female basketball player to get a signature shoe, it was quite a big deal. Among those paying attention was a young Elena Delle Donne, who even at seven years old, had to have a pair of the Air Swoopes right away. Now the current WNBA star honors her childhood basketball and sneaker hero with a very special edition of the Nike React Hyperdunk 2017 in a PE inspired by Swoopes’ first shoe.

Customized with special touches calling back to the Air Swoopes, the Delle Donne’s Hyperdunk features a split color block, added heel tabs, and the same pattern on the textile inner lining. Elena adds a couple more of her own touches to the PE: an angel wing tattoo graphic as a tribute to her sister Lizzie, and “Demand Excellence” visible underneath the translucent outsoles.

Delle Donne wore the “Swoopes” React Hyperdunk 2017 PE on-court Saturday, August 26th. The shoe hits retail November 4th in limited supply at Nike.com.


Original Source: https://sneakernews.com/2017/08/28/elena-delle-donne-nike-react-hyperdunk-2017-pe-air-swoopes/

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Washington Mystics players speak out about President Trump, politics in Washington Post story

Courtesy of Fansided:

Politics is a tricky subject to navigate, particularly for professional athletes subject to media scrutiny, fan criticism, and the expectations of their own team.

The Washington Mystics don’t seem to care.

In an eye-opening piece in the Washington Post on Sunday, players and coaches spoke out about current events and whether they would visit the White House if invited.

For the Mystics, it starts with the coach. The story says Mike Thibault welcomes political discussion around his team, no matter the views, and encourages his players to support causes that are important to them.

“I’m not trying to be dramatic about it; I just think it’s important that you stand up for what you think’s right,” Thibault said. “I don’t know if it’s the teacher part of me or the activist part of me, I don’t know what it is. I just feel like I want them to stand for something, whatever it is.”

Part of that could mean making a difficult decision if the Mystics win the WNBA Championship (a big “if.” The Mystics are on track for a playoff spot, but would have to get past several teams in seemingly better shape.). Major sports champions are traditionally invited to the White House to meet the president, but many of President Trump’s actions and policies have rubbed Mystics players the wrong way, to the point where they might not want to attend.

In the story, Elena Delle Donne called Trump’s statement last week on banning transgender individuals from serving in the military “idiotic” and “very frightening.”

Natasha Cloud said she does not support any of Trump’s views on politics or human rights issues, and added that if the Mystics were to win the WNBA title, “we [presumably the Mystics] would not go to the White House.
Delle Donne agreed:

“I wouldn’t go,” Delle Donne said. “I’m pretty sure the whole team just isn’t in support of a lot of the values that the president right now seems to be standing for. So yeah, I don’t think many of us would make that trip.”

The Mystics are hardly an outlier, either. Earlier this month, the Seattle Storm held a Stand With Planned Parenthood night, which included a pregame rally. They also gave proceeds from ticket sales going to the non-profit. WNBA president Lisa Borders also weighed in on the hotly contested Georgia special House election, supporting Democrat Jon Ossoff, who ultimately lost to Republican Karen Handel.

It will be interesting to see if other WNBA contenders weigh in on a potential White House invitation in the offseason. After all, one team will ultimately have a decision to make.


Original Source: https://summitthoops.com/2017/07/31/theresa-plaisance-raised-on-game/

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Delle Donne’s Unprecedented Free-Throw Shooting Continues To Amaze

Courtesy of WNBA:

The game of basketball offers a unique scoring opportunity that simply can’t be found anywhere else in sports: the free throw.

This motion doesn’t cloak its true meaning in verbose vernacular. In fact, it’s exactly what it claims to be: An uncontested throw of the ball at the hoop in hopes of adding another point, two or even three to your final total. No defender trying to block or even affect the shot, other players reduced to fans watching the action unfold in front of them. It’s a play that’s become so commonplace in the game today that we often overlook its simplicity.

Delving into WNBA team free throw percentage from the past five seasons, a veiled but intriguing theme of consistency comes to fruition. From 2013-16 the Chicago Sky never dropped out of the top four, and this season the Mystics are the second team shooting 85% or better (Fever, 2017) since the 2011 Phoenix Mercury.

The thread clearly isn’t a homecourt advantage but rather a prolific individual shooter: Elena Delle Donne.

You know about the MVP awards, the scoring champion accolades, the Rookie of the Year trophy and the Olympic gold medal, but EDD also holds the profound honor of being the league’s all-time leader in the free throw percentage (94.3%).

Delle Donne has made the charity stripe her second home. While her exceptional arsenal of offensive weapons make her lethal off the dribble or in a catch-and-shoot opportunity, her ability to draw fouls and then convert from the line is what sets her in a class all by herself when it comes to stuffing the stat sheet.

On Tuesday afternoon, Delle Donne tied DeWanna Bonner’s record for consecutive made free throws in a single season at 59. Eva Nemcova still holds the all-time record after sinking 66 straight between the 1999 and 2000 seasons.

She missed the historic shot and fell short in chasing more history, but still, this ground-breaking level of consistency was nothing new for the four-time All-Star.

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

In 2015, Delle Donne made 58 straight free throws as a member of the Chicago Sky, which at the time set the all-time single-season record before Bonner set the new record just five weeks later. In the same season she also set a new WNBA in-game record by knocking down 19 of 19 free throws against the Dream in late June en route to a career-high 45-point outburst. All in all she’s made an astounding 686 of the 728 total free throw shots she’s attempted in her WNBA career thus far.

2017 has been particularly special for the free throw phenom as her 96.4 percent shooting from the line is the best clip of her career. EDD has only missed four free throws this entire season, she’s taken 112. Always mentioned in the scoring champion discussion, Delle Donne’s 19.3 points per game are the 7th most in the WNBA and of her 366 points this season 108 have come in the form of free throws.

Many are hesitant to say that someone is “automatic” or a “guarantee” when it comes to scoring the basketball. But, if Elena Delle Donne is on the line with two free throws coming her way, it’s safe to assume she’ll have two more points next to her name as her team runs the other way to get into their defensive set.


Original Source: http://www.wnba.com/news/elena-delle-donne-free-throw-foul-shooting/

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Elena Delle Donne hopes to share lessons from her life and career in new books


Courtesy of USA Today:

Even for a program like Connecticut, Elena Della Donne was a big deal. The Huskies routinely bring in top classes, but by 2008 Delle Donne had become perhaps the most talked-about high school girls basketball player in history, destined for multiple titles with the nation’s most elite program.

Then, after only a short stay on campus the summer before her freshman season, she left. Her decision to transfer to the University of Delaware is still scrutinized nearly 10 years — and one WNBA MVP award and Olympic gold medal — later.

Now, she’s hoping to pass on the life lessons she learned then – and from the rest of her career (so far) – in two new books: Her memoir, My Shot, and the first in a series of kids books, Elle of the Ball. Delle Donne wants both books — which are written with a collaborator and will be released by Simon and Schuster in March of 2018 — to be accessible to children and teenagers who may be struggling with the same feelings she had when she was younger.

“It’s been a couple of years in my career and I feel like at this point I’m comfortable with who I am, where I am,” Delle Donne said. “A lot of lessons I’ve learned along the way, and I love kids so I definitely wanted these first books to be geared towards a younger age group and just wanted to share some life lessons. Also just give a little bit of fun reading.”

Among those life lessons, she said, are those she learned in the years after her departure from UConn, when long-simmering feelings of burnout culminated in an abrupt – but necessary – break from the sport before returning to the court at Delaware a year later. She said she began feeling burned out long before she stepped on campus in Storrs, Conn. and in her book shares some of the emotions she was feeling in the years leading up to that famous departure.

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

“It was definitely a chance to tell it in my own way and in my own words, even going through the writing process of it all. At some points it’s kind of emotional to have to re-live moments that were tough, especially the whole Connecticut turmoil and going through that I felt like I had to re-live those emotions in order to re-tell it the way I was experiencing it in that time,” she said. “So I would say that was one of the hardest parts of the book was getting through that and burnout was a huge part of the book and I think — even if you’re not an athlete — there’s things in life you feel like you’re burning out in and I tell it from my perspective and how I got through it and hope that can help others.”

There are other life lessons in the books that Delle Donne hopes can appeal to kids – and grownups – across different audiences. Which means she hopes that both boys and girls take away something from the books. In Elle of the Ball, a book about a middle school basketball player, there’s a boy character too.

“So if they don’t relate to my character hopefully they can relate to another one and that was very important to me,” she said.

Delle Donne also hopes to offer some of what she learned about perseverance, having the right people to support you and some tales about life being so tall. (Delle Donne is 6-foot-5).

“It took me until college to really be comfortable,” she said. “Obviously basketball helped a lot but I would say college is when I finally loved my height and embraced it.”

As for feeling comfortable with herself as a whole? As it is for any of us, it’s an ongoing process, she said.

“But I’m in a great place now and I feel like I’ve really learned so much over the years,” she said. “This was a great time to reflect and share some lessons.”


Original Source: http://ftw.usatoday.com/2017/07/elena-delle-donne-book

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Elena Delle Donne makes herself right at home with Mystics

Courtesy of ESPN:

WASHINGTON — Elena Delle Donne hasn’t attempted her first subway ride in the nation’s capital, the Beltway gives her a headache and her dogs Wrigley and Rasta are only lukewarm to their new digs in northern Virginia.

But just about every other part of the 2015 WNBA MVP’s transition to a new team and new city looks as free and easy as, well, an EDD jump shot.

And plenty of shots hit the mark during a Sunday matinee for the Washington Mystics, who never trailed in breezing past San Antonio 89-74 at the Verizon Center.

Delle Donne, who requested to be traded from the Chicago Sky during the offseason, scored a team-best 24 on 8-of-12 shooting in her debut for a Mystics team that has generated buzz as a possible contender for a first-ever league championship.

“Obviously, you come in and get 24 points in your debut, that probably sets a pretty good tone for things,” said Washington coach Mike Thibault, though conceding he expects a far different look from the Stars when the teams meet later this summer.

“This is exactly what I was hoping for and even more,” said Delle Donne, who, teamed with the league’s top 3-point shooter Emma Meesseman, gives the Mystics one of the more potent frontcourts. “I knew coming here this team had chemistry. But when you get here and you feel it and experience it, it’s even better than I imagined. It’s so fun to play with so much talent and so many options.”

San Antonio played without three starters in Kelsey Plum, the No. 1 pick in last month’s draft who’s out with a right ankle sprain, Moriah Jefferson (right knee soreness), and Kayla McBride (overseas playing in the Turkish League finals). McBride and Jefferson led the Stars in scoring in 2016 and Plum, from the University of Washington, comes in as the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer.

The Stars also are coming off rare back-to-back road games, having lost 73-64 to New York on Saturday night in Madison Square Garden. That didn’t stop Monique Currie from amassing 31 points, less than 24 hours after scoring 23.

The Mystics are intact, though they haven’t been for long as Kristi Toliver and Meesseman joined the group midway through last week. While the defense had some lapses, including Delle Donne weathering five fouls, Thibault largely attributed that to the newcomers still figuring out what is familiar to veterans Tayler Hill, Natasha Cloud, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt and Ivory Latta.

“They’re used to talking to each other and those kinds of things, and it’s going to take a little longer to integrate the newer players.

“[Elena] will get better once she gets used to our defensive system,” he said. “She’ll be able to anticipate some things and get there a little bit quicker. I think a couple of her fouls were just from being a count late.”

That said, Thibault couldn’t have been more pleased with his franchise player, quipping this about her free-throw prowess: “We have a rule that if you violate while she’s shooting the free throw, we’re going to fine you 25 bucks apiece. So we had one almost do it early in the game. They’re all going to fine her for missing a free throw because it’s such a rare thing.”

Delle Donne, who set a Sky record for 97 made free throws her rookie season, sank her first seven from the line and finished 8 of 9.

She’s already a fan favorite, too, though the announced crowd of 6,126 was nearly half of the opening day attendance a year ago in D.C., most likely a result of a midafternoon game on Mother’s Day and the first-place Nationals playing an afternoon home game nearby.

While it’ll take a while for her jersey to rival anything worn by Alex Ovechkin and Bryce Harper, plenty of girls, boys and even grown men walked around the Verizon Center showing off her No. 11.

Dave Noren pulled up his new Delle Donne T-shirt to reveal Delle Donne Chicago Sky garb. “I’m from Chicago,” he said, admitting that he prefers she play in Washington given his suburban Virginia address. Sons Greg, 12, and Zach, 9, also had their own Delle Donne paraphernalia.

“She’s the best,” Zach said.

Greg added, “She’s really good.”

Delle Donne cited wanting to be closer to home as the primary reason she wanted to leave Chicago. Now home is a straight shot up I-95 north to Wilmington, Delaware, a far easier trek for parents Ernie and Joan Delle Donne than navigating a plane ride in and out of O’Hare International.

Short of relocating a WNBA franchise to the tri-state area, “This is perfect,” said Ernie Delle Donne, sitting alongside his son Gene, daughter-in-law Jennifer, granddaughter Gia and Amanda Clifton, Elena’s fiancé.

Ernie Delle Donne, who traveled to 28 of Elena’s 32 home games last season, used to leave his office no later than 11 a.m. for a night game in Chicago. If he was lucky, he’d be back to work by 1 p.m., the next afternoon.

“Now for a 7 o’clock game, I can leave at 4 and be here in time for tipoff and be back before midnight,” he said.

Elena lunched with her mother on Thursday — Joan Delle Donne stayed at home with Elena’s sister, Lizzie, on Sunday — and handed off a Mother’s Day gift to Gene. Lizzie, who has cerebral palsy and autism, is expected to come for two games.

The family is expected to make good use of their recently purchased vacation home on the water in Annapolis, Maryland. Friday night, Elena met her family for a Mexican meal and had a flatbread from Dunkin’ Donuts with everyone before arriving at the Verizon Center by noon Sunday.

“The drive from our house to practice here is actually a lot better than in Chicago,” Clifton said. “Just being out here, being close to family automatically puts her in a better place. She’s much happier, not just about basketball, but about life.”

Joe Biden wasn’t in the house on Sunday, but the former vice president from Delaware told Thibault he expects to attend four or five games. The first state was well represented, however. The University of Delaware, Delle Donne’s alma mater, sent down a charter bus of 44 fans.

“This is wonderful,” said Carol Dillon, a regular at Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center during Delle Donne’s college. “We can take the train.”

Seated next to her in the second row at midcourt, her friend Helen Hannan added while mimicking a jump shot, “I could watch her shoot all day.”

“I knew the Delaware faithful would show up,” Delle Donne said. “That’s my crew; that’s my family. Delaware always makes me proud. It’s truly a home game. Delaware doesn’t care if it’s two hours. It’s home for them as well.”

While Delle Donne will be the focal point for the Mystics offense, she’s surrounded by shooters, including Toliver. The former Maryland star, who won a league championship last year as a member of the L.A. Sparks, scored eight and added four assists.

“I played four years two miles down the road,” said Toliver, whose father, former AAU teammates and high school bestie were in the stands. “It feels like home.”

Tayler Hill, one of two mothers on this team along with Tianna Hawkins, finished with 15, and Meesseman had 13 with nine boards.

“Offensively we didn’t have to force much and I think it’s going to continue to be that way,” Delle Donne said. “Any player can step up anytime and any night. It’s exciting to be on a team with this many options.”


Original Source: http://www.espn.com/wnba/story/_/id/19367118/wnba-moms-getting-more-help-ever-face-challenges

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