By Mel Greenberg
NEWARK, Del. - On a day gifted women's basketball star Elena Delle Donne was supposed to be attending her first classes for the fall semester at NCAA-favorite Connecticut, the former Ursuline Academy sensation was seated here at the University of Delaware Monday afternoon explaining to a crowd of reporters near her Wilmington-area home why she will be excited instead to be part of the Blue Hens' volleyball team.
Delaware volleyball coach Bonnie Kenny said Delle Donne would play middle hitter as a non-scholarship player, a condition caused by joining the team after Aug. 1, according to NCAA rules.
In accepting Delle Donne to her squad, Kenny said she was given the same treatment any other athlete interested in playing with the Blue Hens would receive.
In a fascinating half-hour, the nation's national high school player of the year last season, revealed that she began to feel "burned out" from basketball as early as age 15.
Delle Donne said she didn't feel she could deliver the commitment it would take to excel with the Husklies.
Although most of the nation is focused on Delaware because of U.S. Senator Joe Biden's impending Democratic vice presidential candidacy as Barack Obama's running mate, Delle Donne is also big news in these parts.
A Delaware spokesman said Monday's press conference was only topped in the athletic department's history when the legendary Tubby Raymond retired as football coach and when current coach K.C. Keeler was named as his successor.
Both Delle Donne's parents Ernie and Joanie were present and spoke of coping with the change in athletic direction of their daughter since Ellena made a quick return from Storrs on June 3 two days after she arrived for summer school.
All parties praised the way Connecticut Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma handled the situation throughout the summer as the team and Huskies fans awaited the decision of whether Delle Donne would be joining the team.
Kenny, the Colonial Athletic Conference's coach of the year after the Blue Hens won the title and made their first NCAA tournament appearance, predicted Delle Donne was going to be an even better volleyball player than the expectations for her in basketball.
Delle Donne, who also played volleyball at Ursuline, did not want to say "never" in terms of one day returning to basketball, but for now she said this is where her passion has turned.
Delaware women's basketball coach Tina Martin did not attend the sessions, but said in a statement that "the door is open" anytime for Elena to her program.
Ernie Delle Donne said when he watched his daughter play volleyball last winter, he noticed a "glee" he hadn't seen in some time from her on the basketball court."
Depicted as someone who could play in the WNBA right now, Delle Donne has been followed heavily by media and the women's basketball community since she played in the seventh grade.
Delle Donne sat extremely poised in discussing her situation and said the thing she would miss most at Connecticut was the coaching staff and her now-former teammates.
She said once she made her decision and told Auriemma she would not return, she notified UConn freshman Carolyn Doty, a former Germantown Academy star who was a teammate on Fencor AAU and was set to be her roommate in Storrs.
There is much more to report. Two UConn beat writers attended. A lot of transcription of the actual remarks has to be made by the Guru and he has to file a short version for printed editions. But he'll be back later in the day.)