Sky’s Elena Delle Donne named WNBA’s Rookie of Year
FILE - In this Aug. 9, 2013, file photo, Chicago Sky's Elena Delle Donne, left, is guarded by Connecticut Sun's Allison Hightower during the first half of a WNBA basketball game in Uncasville, Conn. Delle Donne led Chicago to its first postseason berth in franchise history and hopes to help the Sky defeat defending WNBA champion, Indiana Fever, in the opening round. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)
ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) — It was pretty obvious to voters who the best rookie in the WNBA was this season.
Chicago Sky forward Elena Delle Donne got all 39 first-place votes to easily win the league’s rookie of the year award Friday.
The second overall draft pick and part of a heralded class of first-year players, Delle Donne was presented with the trophy by WNBA president Laurel J. Richie before the Sky’s playoff opener against the Indiana Fever.
“I had the pleasure of watching Elena Delle Donne compete in her first WNBA game in Phoenix on May 27 and in my very, very humble estimation it seemed to have taken her maybe 10 minutes to make the transition from the college game to the professional game,” said Richie.
Delle Donne was part of a rookie class that included top pick Brittney Griner — out of powerhouse Baylor — and Skylar Diggins, who was taken third out of Notre Dame.
But it was the 6-foot-5 forward from Delaware who outshined them all.
Delle Donne averaged 18.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and shot 93 percent from the free throw line to help Chicago make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. The Sky earned the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
“I’m definitely humbled to be receiving this award among such a talented rookie class this season,” said Delle Donne.
In her first WNBA game — against Griner and the Mercury — Delle Donne scored 22 points to lead Chicago to a victory. She went on to set franchise rookie records in 3-pointers (42), blocks (54) and points (543).
Delle Donne was presented her award along with two of her teammates who were also honored by the league. Center Sylvia Fowles was named the defensive player of the year for the second time and forward Swin Cash won the Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award, splitting it with Indiana’s Tamika Catchings.
And it was Fowles and Cash who Delle Donne was most comfortable talking about.
“Truthfully, I talk about them because the individual accolades and the individual success doesn’t come without them,” Delle Donne said. “They’ve helped me rise to the occasion game after game, practice after practice. So I’ll continue to talk about them, because I owe them a ton.”
She finished third in the league’s MVP balloting behind Candace Parker and Maya Moore, only the second rookie to finish that high in the voting in the last decade. Parker won the MVP in 2008 as a rookie.
“She’s a talented player. It’s amazing what she can do at 6-5,” Parker said of Delle Donne. “I’ve been watching her since she was in eighth grade. We recruited her at Tennessee extremely hard.”
Delle Donne was the league’s top vote-getter for the All-Star game in July, marking the first time a rookie held that distinction. She wasn’t able to play because of a concussion she suffered a few days before the game.