Delle Donne Heads Back To Active Duty At Delaware
By Mel Greenberg
For all the private whispers that had been going on in the Division I women's basketball community wondering whether Delaware star sophomore Elena Delle Donne had lost interest again in the sport she excels, the answer arrived in the negative Tuesday afternoon when the school announced the 2008 national high school player of the year was about to return to practice with the Blue Hens.
Furthermore, Delle Donne, who was both the Colonial Athletic Association rookie and player of the year in 2009-10 after having bypassed a season, might see limited action Sunday afternoon when the Blue Hens travel to Hofstra on Long Island for a key CAA game.
Delaware is currently tied with Drexel for fifth place in the CAA, both schools trailing by two games a group of Old Dominion, UNC Wilmington and James Madison, who are in first. Virginia Commonwealth is in second.
Following fears of recurring mononucleosis, which Delle Donne contracted her senior year at nearby Wilmington's Ursuline Academy, or a major back injury, it turns out that Delle Donne apparently had been hit with Lyme Disease, which she had suffered once before, according to her interview Tuesday with longtime Delaware beat writer Kevin Tresolini of the Wilmington News Journal.
Additionally, both Delle Donne and coach Tina Martin texted the Guru Tuesday night.
"I am not going to be myself for a good bit," Delle Donne said of attempting to recover from a disease that affects the joints and could lead to more serious effects in the body. It is usually caused by a bite from a deer tick.
"A lot of heaviness and pain in my legs I'm just gonna have to deal with."
Delle Donne was asked if she had seen the trick shot youtube video attraction on the internet involving her good friend and former Germantown Academy star Caroline Doty, who is missing this season at UConn recovering from a third knee injury.
She had not but planned to check it out.
Delle Donne did not comment on the recent transfer of freshman star Samarie Walker from UConn to Kentucky but was surprised to hear the first part of the story when she was made aware of it as it broke on Thursday.
Martin will use Delle Donne sparingly, but considering the tightness of the CAA race, basically any help at all to keep the Blue Hens in the thick of things is worth something. What Delaware would need is to gain one of the four byes in the CAA tournament, get the extra day of rest, and then hope Delle Donne can be enough of a force to make a three-day run.
As it is, the Blue Hens are 4-3 in conference play without her and nearly upset Old Dominion two weeks ago.
"She still does not feel the best, but she is going to try to help the team," Martin said. "We will take it day to day.
"Elena practiced today. She is not 100 percent but she is going to try to play. It is going to be a long process to recovery. It is going to take her time to try to get back in shape. She can help our team and I am hopeful that with each passing day she will feel better and better," Martin continued.
"We are substituting her in and out every few minutes. It is going to take time. She did some shooting and some 5 on 0 work. She scrimmaged half court and a little full court."
Delle Donne has not played since a Dec. 19 appearance at Penn State and had missed almost two games prior to the trip to Happy Valley before returning against Navy.
She had gotten off to a fast start early in the season and her 26.0 scoring average was the best in Division I until her absences cost her eligibility to be listed in the NCAA statistics. The top spot, ironically, comes from another school with a CAA star in JMU's Dawn Evans, who is also battling kidney disease.
The Dukes visit Philadelphia Thursday night to meet Drexel, whom they recently edged in overtime at home.
In late November, Delle Donne removed herself six minutes into the win over La Salle in town and afterwards Martin said her forward had been very fatigued and worried that potential recurring mononucleosis might be factor.
She was to undergo a series of tests. She then missed the home loss to defending Ivy champion Princeton but then played at Navy the following Sunday and with a two-week break in the schedule then played at Penn State.
However, several days later she sat out the home game with St. Joseph's and planned to undergo a series of tests to get a diagnosis.
Martin told the media if Delle Donne said she couldn't play, then it had to be accepted until a resolution could be found.
Soon the focus was on her back where it was suspected some nerve condition was affecting her stamina.
But after a battery of tests, the focus then moved on lyme disease.
With that known and considering that many persons would just shut themselves down to a slow recovery at least it is now known that Delle Donne's joints and bones are the problem but certainly not her heart.