In Monday’s WNBA draft, the Chicago Sky took a player whom a rival coach had described as peerless.
No, not Brittney Griner.
With the second overall pick in the draft, the Sky chose Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne, a 6-foot, 5-inch forward with the ability to play any position on the floor.
"We haven't seen a player like her come into our league," Tulsa Shock coach Gary Kloppenburg said of Delle Donne. "I guess the comparison is to Lauren Jackson, but in a way she's got a greater skill set than even Lauren with her ability to put the ball on the floor."
The Sky picked Delle Donne over Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins because they were set at point guard with third-year pro Courtney Vandersloot and at shooting guard with fourth-year pro Epiphanny Prince, the team’s leading scorer last year.
Delle Donne likely will relieve some of the rebounding and low post pressure on center Sylvia Fowles as the Sky seeks to make the playoffs for the first time in its eight-year history.
“In terms of everything we needed to get better, she fit that,” Sky coach Pokey Chatman said via telephone. “And then she’s an exceptional player with a tremendously diverse skill set. She can face up, take you off the dribble, go back to the basket.
"I'm going to let her play all the positions. You almost forget she is 6-5 because she can do all the things a small guard can do."
Along with Baylor’s Griner, whom Phoenix took with the first pick, Diggins and Delle Donne are the keystones of a rebranding effort the WNBA hopes will increase its visibility and attendance. Diggins went to Tulsa, which had the third pick.
“I am just going to try to continue to be myself and play my game,” Diggins said when asked about becoming a face of the league.
Diggins, listed at 5-9, was the home-town kid from South Bend who made good at Notre Dame, where she began her career as a shooting guard and moved to the point as a sophomore.
Delle Donne was the top player in the country when she came out of high school. She signed with UConn but stayed on that campus just two days before returning to her home near Wilmington, Del., enrolling at the University of Delaware and turning to volleyball.
The urge to get back into basketball came when she watched the NCAA Tournament at the end of her freshman year. Rather than being part of a national power, Delle Donne joined a Delaware team that had not won a game in two previous NCAA appearances and took them to the Sweet 16 in her junior and senior years.
"There was a time when I didn't feel I was going to pick up a basketball again," Delle Donne said. "Now I'm the second pick. This is awesome. I'm glad I was able to figure things out."
Despite facing defenses keyed on her, she averaged 26.7 points per game over her career, leading the country in scoring as a junior and finishing second this season while making 45 percent of 115 three-point shots.
The Sky had no pick in the second round but selected 6-foot-1 forward Brooklyn Pope of Baylor in the third round with the 28th overall pick.