Six feet 5 inches, two inches taller than Jeremy Lin and only one inch behind five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant. Wearing a white jersey and shorts, this player has the same desire that every team competing in this year’s March Madness. But no one’s banking on, or even thought of this player as a factor to filling out their brackets. Why? Simply because this player is a girl.
Elena Delle Donne of the University of Delaware’s Blue Hens is leading her team into the NCAA tournament on Sunday. As the current women’s basketball top scorer in the country, Delle Donne has scored more points per game in her junior year (28.3) than last year’s leading scorer in NCAA men’s basketball, Jimmer Fredette did in his third year at Brigham Young University (22 points).
A Delaware native, Delle Donne passed the opportunity to play basketball for UCONN, a team that was on what would end up being a historic 90-game winning streak when they recruited her, choosing instead to stay in her home state so she could be closer to her family, and particularly her sister Lizzy, who is blind, deaf and was born with cerebral palsy.
While she might be soft off the court, Delle Donne plays far from nice. With one year of eligibility left, she made the 2,000 point mark mid-February of this year, an accomplishment Kenneth Faried, a Denver Nuggets forward and the second-ranked NCAA player in 2009-2010, managed his senior year.
But March remains focused on men's basketball and June highlights the NBA draft, great college players like Delle Donne take part in NCAA tournaments and join the WNBA without significant publicity. Ladies only make it to the sports sections of papers and news websites when they play in what some would consider "like men." Such is the case with Lisa Leslie, the first to dunk in the WNBA and Candace Parker, first to dunk in the NCAA.
While some argue the sweat and dunks of the NBA make men's basketball look harder and more appealing than women's basketball, it really isn't as difficult as it seems. Men's basketball thrives on flashy plays and making men cry or look vulnerable when they don't win simply because, by social standards, men aren't supposed to lose.
So for everyone hyped about March Madness, enjoy acting anxious during a do-or-die championship, but know that it really doesn't matter who wins in the end. The players on the losing team will get drafted into the NBA anyway. Instead, try watching Delle Donne bring her CAA team to the NCAA on Sunday or the UCONN ladies on Saturday. They bring more to the court than the sappy "Cinderella stories" of March Madness.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons