Delle Donne and Diggins Round Out Game-Changing Class
BRISTOL, Conn. - While Brittney Griner gets a lot of attention for the expected dominance she will bring to the WNBA, the excitement about this year's draft wouldn't be complete without the second and third picks -- Elena Delle Donne and Skylar Diggins.
"I want to use (the buzz) not just for myself, but for the greater good of the league and the women in it," Diggins said. "Just to promote. We want to put butts into seats and we want people to come out and support our games."
The Chicago Sky selected Delle Donne from Delaware at No. 2 and the Tulsa Shock selected Diggins from Notre Dame at No. 3. Both are fierce competitors on the court but walk into very distinctly different situations when the 2013 WNBA season tips off May 24.
Delle Donne's selection catapults the Sky to being thought of as a championship contender. Last season, the Sky stumbled after guard Epiphanny Prince and center Sylvia Fowles dealt with injuries. But with both women healthy, the trio of Prince running point, Delle Donne on the wing and Fowles down-low will be a force to be reckoned with in the East.
"This is a phenomenal team that I'll be joining,” Delle Donne said. “There's a lot of players who are going to be mentors to me and really help me out along the way. I think I'm going to learn a ton from these players. We definitely have a great team. I felt like I was a really great puzzle piece for this team."
Delle Donne is known for her shooting ability and she uses her size to her advantage, making her nearly impossible to guard on the wing. That will only get better once she's paired with Fowles, she said.
"With Sylvia being such an incredible post presence in there, I think that is going to be amazing," she said. "Obviously they have to guard Sylvia and they're going to need help to guard Sylvia, so I'm going to be able to spread the floor and I'm going to be able to create a lot of room on the court."
It's an exciting moment for Delle Donne, and a moment that could have never happened. After accepting a scholarship at the University of Connecticut, Delle Donne left UConn her freshman year and instead went to Delaware because she was, at the time, tired of playing basketball.
"When I left Connecticut, I told myself that was it and basketball was not going to be a part of my future," she said. "It's been such a growing experience. People say when you're 18 you don't know what you want. You just grow up. I was able to go to Delaware, be near my family and grow as a person. Now I'm a 23-year-old woman and this is so incredibly exciting and I can't wait to play professionally."
While she's thrilled to enjoy the moment of getting drafted, Delle Donne said she's looking forward to stepping away from the cameras and getting back to working out and preparing for the season. To get in shape, she said she's studying the prep habits from NBA star Kobe Bryant.
"The credit goes to my brother on that one," Delle Donne said. "He had heard Kobe plays full-court one-on-one. We were doing 6 a.m. workouts, full-court one-on-one. He's hitting me, punching me, fouls don't matter. Even blood didn't matter at that point."
Meanwhile, Diggins heads to Tulsa to join a team looking for immediate help. After a 9-25 campaign last season, Tulsa is handing Diggins, a lightning fast point guard with strong leadership skills, the keys in helping turn the team around.
Turning a team around is also something she's no stranger to, she added. During Diggins' college career, Notre Dame made it to the NCAA Final Four three times.
"When I entered Notre Dame, we lost in the first round of the tournament the year before," Diggins said. "It's a similar situation coming in where we haven't found our niche yet." She added she expects to do the same thing for Tulsa this season.
"I look forward for the opportunity to get to Tulsa, try my best to show my leadership skills and the skills made me so successful and made my team so successful in college and I hope it translates," she said.
She's also not the only star power joining the Shock this season. Tulsa signed Candace Wiggins from the Minnesota Lynx. Diggins said the "Diggins-Wiggins" pairing is already oozing of chemistry both on and off the court. The excitement both players can bring to the franchise could be the spark that turns things around for the Shock. Both have strong Twitter fan bases and have used the medium over the years to keep in touch with one another.
"Candice and I are so close," Diggins said. "She's such a great teammate. If you see her, she's one of the most supportive teammates - like a cheerleader. I know she's excited for her new role coming into Tulsa where she'll be more of a leader and a veteran who is going to take on a lot of responsibilities."
WNBA President Laurel Richie said she's thrilled to see all the new draftees enter the league. She classified the 2013 season as a game-changer and a moment that will be talked about for years to come.
"We are going to look back at 2013 and realize it was a year that really changed the landscape for the WNBA," Richie said. "I'm very, very excited about the level of play and I'm excited about the players coming into the league."