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Elena Delle Donne

Elena Delle Donne Looking Forward to Light Participation in USA Basketball Camp

  • Author:
    Drew Silverman, Red Line Editorial
  • Date:
    Feb 5, 2022

The WNBA star is recovering from a back injury she suffered over two years ago.

It’s been a long two years for Elena Delle Donne.

Playing only three WNBA games over the last two seasons. Watching her Washington Mystics teammates take the court without her. Missing the USA Basketball Women’s National Team’s gold-medal run at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The back injury that Delle Donne suffered during the 2019 WNBA playoffs has taken its toll physically and mentally. But the two-time WNBA MVP, 2016 U.S. Olympic gold medalist and 2018 FIBA World Cup champ is well on her road to recovery.

Next stop: USA Basketball training camp.

Delle Donne revealed on Tuesday that she will participate lightly in the upcoming minicamp being held Feb. 5-7 in Washington, D.C.

“I see playing some 5-on-0, doing a lot of shooting and just being there as a leader,” an enthusiastic Delle Donne said in a virtual conference call.

She will not play in the FIBA World Cup qualifying games that follow the camp on Feb. 10-12, but that disappointment is not taking away from her eagerness to get back on the court.

“I’m excited to be back with USA Basketball,” said Delle Donne, who is 26-0 in her USA Basketball career. “Right now, in the way that I’m progressing on the court, I’m still doing a lot of individual work and individual skill. So, I haven’t gotten into playing against others quite yet. … But I’m super excited to hop into a team atmosphere, partake as much as I can, and continue on my progress and getting ready for Mystics season.”

After missing the entire 2020 WNBA season, Delle Donne suited up for three games in 2021. Ultimately, her back needed more time to heal, and she decided to sit out the rest of the campaign. Despite the apparent setback, Delle Donne viewed her brief return to the court as a positive development — and she says she’ll definitely be good to go for the 2022 season.

“I’ll be ready,” she said. “I feel phenomenal. … I haven’t had pain in months now, thank goodness. I feel like I’m moving again like my younger self, but even better and more efficient.”

Delle Donne noted one winter workout where, for the first time in a long time, she finally felt like herself.

“I had a day on the court recently where I was working on my pivots and counter moves and, in that moment, it was like, ‘Wow, I feel so good right now. I feel springy. I can change direction.’ It just felt right — and I hadn’t felt like that in quite some time.”

Mystics coach Mike Thibault, who is also coaching the U.S. team in World Cup Qualifying, has enjoyed his front-row seat to Delle Donne’s rehab process. He said he doesn’t anticipate any type of minutes restriction once the star forward-guard is proclaimed ready to roll. 

“People don’t know the hours she’s spent each day over the last year and a half,” said Thibault. “It’s very encouraging for us.”

That is great news for the U.S. team as well. Because while it certainly has been a long road for the Mystics and for Delle Donne, her USA National Team squad has also been waiting to welcome her back with open arms.

“There’s that moment where this game may be taken away from you and I might have no say in it (because) my body is just not doing what it’s supposed to be doing,” Delle Donne said, thinking back to earlier in the rehab process.

Delle Donne wondered at times if her professional basketball career was over. Yet, she never allowed herself to start planning for the next stage (coaching or broadcasting, perhaps), as that ultimately would have been a distraction to her rehab and a disservice both to the Mystics and to USA Basketball.

“That fear that maybe this is it — that (feeling) is awful. … You want it to be your decision when you decide to stop playing,” said Delle Donne, who described the rehab process as her “rebirth” in many ways. “So, for me to lock into this (rehab) and to find a new way and a new push and to feel so great now is something that’s just so exciting. I find so much joy in it every day.”

 

Drew Silverman is a freelance contributor to USAB.com on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

 


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