Elena Delle Donne

In case you missed it (and you probably missed it) the Delaware women’s basketball team demolished Arkansas-Little Rock in an opening-round game earlier today. The final score was 73-42, but the most noteworthy linescore was that of Elena Delle Donne, the Blue Hens’ All-American foward. She scored 39 points, going 14 for 27 from the field, including 5 for 8 from 3-point range.

As a former Delaware student-athlete (though not a very good college athlete), I’ve been raving about Delle Donne all season, telling friends and non-friends alike about this gifted, once-a-generation player. Truth be told, however, “once-a-generation” is too limited. For the University of Delaware, Elena Delle Donne is a once-an-ever player. In other words, her coming to Delaware is LeBron James attending Akron; is Peyton Manning picking Northeast Louisiana over Tennessee. She was the National High School Player of the Year; a UConn signee who, after just a few days in Connecticut, decided to return to the First State to be near her family (the story has been well-told by now).

Before Delle Donne arrived in Newark, the Hens were one of 100 mid-major programs; just an OK operation that would draw, oh, 600 fans to a game. They played in the CAA, sometimes won, sometimes lost, but never, ever, ever made any sort of national noise.

Now, however, because of one woman’s decision to go mid-major over major, a culture and team and, in some ways, university … have been transformed. She is already the most decorated athlete to ever play for the University of Delaware.

Before long, she will also be the most important.