How Adrianna Hahn Got Legendary Status Alongside Elena Delle Donne

Courtesy Mike Wallace

Villanova recruit Adrianna Hahn, who won her third straight Gatorade state player of the year award on Thursday, has Ursuline Academy one win away from its 15th state title in Delaware.

Adrianna Hahn was just 10 years old when she impressed Elena Delle Donne for the first time.

Delle Donne was a high school senior at Ursuline Academy (Wilmington, Delaware) and she was helping out at a basketball camp that Hahn was attending.

"By Thursday of that week, [Delle Donne] was helping me out more, giving me extra attention," Hahn said. "So she asked me if I wanted to go to a game that night."

The "game" Delle Donne was referring to was a WNBA game between the Washington Mystics and the Phoenix Mercury in D.C., and the "go" entailed a two-hour ride in a limo.

Hahn's dad, Simeon, who was familiar with the Delle Donne family from basketball circles and gyms, had his reservations when Adrianna called to tell him about the invitation, but he was swayed by his persuasive daughter.

"It was crazy," Hahn said of the trip that was supervised and organized by Delle Donne's dad. "I had never been in a limo before. ... Our seats [at the game] were right on the floor. And after the game, I got to go into the locker room and meet Diana Taurasi."

Delle Donne, now 25 and a 6-foot-5 WNBA superstar in Chicago, is more than just a great basketball player. She's also a pretty good judge of talent.

Hahn, a 5-7 senior point guard at Ursuline, was named Gatorade's Delaware Player of the Year for the third straight season on Thursday.

A Villanova recruit, Hahn is averaging 19 points and six assists this season for Ursuline, which is 22-1.

"Adrianna sees the court really well, she can make every pass, and she's a terrific shooter with range three or four feet beyond the 3-point line," Ursuline coach John Noonan said. "But what I really love about her is confidence.

"When she was in the eighth grade, we fell behind one night 11-0. I looked down the bench for a sub, and every girl looked away except Adrianna. I put her in, and within minutes, the score was 11-11."

Delle Donne, via email, said it was immediately apparent to her that Hahn had game.

"She had the handles, the shot, and, most importantly, the confidence," wrote Delle Donne, who also won three Gatorade state player of the year awards at Ursuline. "I took her aside and challenged her with various drills.

"She was willing to learn and would come back the next day even better at the drills, showing that she had gone home and practiced. She wanted to be challenged, and that's not something you see in a young player very often."

Putting on a show

Hahn, the second and youngest child and only daughter of Simeon and Loretta, got her basketball start at Bonsall Park in Wilmington.

That's where she would go to shoot baskets with her dad.

Hahn got so good so quickly that people would gather at the park to watch her dribble two balls simultaneously and make buckets on a 10-foot rim.

Courtesy Simeon Hahn

Observers say magic happens when Elena Delle Donne and Adrianna Hahn share a basketball court.

She was 4 years old at the time.

By the time she was 8, she was also a soccer standout. Lindsay Russell, now a senior basketball teammate of Hahn's, was also 8 when they first met, on the soccer field. Russell remembers scoring a big goal with five minutes left in a game. She and her all teammates except one -- Hahn -- celebrated the goal.

"Adrianna said: 'Come on guys, the game is not over. We need to focus. We can celebrate after the game,'" Russell said.

"She's intense when you don't know her. But now it's normal, and it actually helps whatever team we're on."

That intensity must have impressed Delle Donne, who put her in touch with her coach, Noonan.

When Hahn went to see Noonan for the first time, he was training boys that day. Hahn joined the pickup game and immediately took one of the boys off the dribble, scoring on a reverse layup.

Jaws dropped, and Hahn quickly decided to set up a transfer to Ursuline so she could get coached by Noonan.

Along the way, Hahn also impressed Darryl Dawkins, the fun-loving ex-NBA center from the 1970s and '80s who spent most of his time with Philadelphia.

After meeting her at a basketball camp, Dawkins challenged the 10-year-old Hahn to hit a shot from the top of the key. Hahn made the shot, and Dawkins signed her shoes as a reward.

When she got home, she had one question for her dad: "Who's Darryl Dawkins?"

Adversity strikes

In Delaware, players are allowed to compete on varsity as early as the eighth grade, and that's when Hahn became a virtual starter.

"I didn't start her because we had some [politically correct] stuff to be mindful of," Noonan said, "but I would put her in 30 seconds into the game."

Courtesy Simeon Hahn

Adrianna Hahn's bedroom leaves no doubt about who her favorite NBA team is.

Hahn helped Ursuline reach the state quarterfinals that season, but things got ugly in that game. Noonan and others say Hahn was the victim of a dirty hit, and the result was an ACL injury to her left knee.

Noonan described it as a "hockey hip check" delivered by a frustrated opponent unable to keep up.

The injury hit the team hard.

"When I saw her go down, my heart dropped," said Russell, who was watching from the stands that night. "I think everyone in the gym felt the same way."

In the locker room, Hahn was emotional, saying, "I heard it pop. ... My career is over."

Two days later, though, she was back to being her determined self, and returned from the injury in six months.

And Hahn didn't just return -- she was better than ever, making first-team All-Delaware and leading Ursuline to a state title as a freshman.

She was named the Gatorade player of the year in Delaware as a sophomore and a junior. After her junior season, Hahn had surgery on her right knee, which was a wear-and-tear injury.

"She's so tough," Noonan said. "Adrianna played the whole season with a hole -- which was about the size of a quarter -- in her knee."

Perhaps Hahn was just trying too hard to emulate her favorite player, the Lakers' Kobe Bryant, who has spent much of the past two seasons on the injured list.

Hahn said her room is a virtual shrine to all things Kobe and the Lakers, adorned in the team colors of purple and gold.

Leaving a legacy

Hahn is hoping to close out her career at Ursuline this week with another state championship. She scored 17 points on Wednesday night in a 61-43 win over St. Elizabeth (Wilmington, Delaware) to put top-seeded Ursuline in Friday's state championship game against second-seeded Caravel Academy (Bear, Delaware).

Another trophy would help Hahn in the trash-talk department because, as it is, Delle Donne usually playfully rips Hahn when she returns to campus. Delle Donne won four basketball state titles while she was at Ursuline.

Russell said the highly competitive duo also has spirited one-on-one battles in the Ursuline gym, despite their 10-inch height difference.

"Elena will block her shot and laugh at her," Russell said. "We all laugh because none of us can block Adrianna's shot. We're like, 'Hmm, Adrianna has finally found someone to block her.'

"But then Adrianna will figure out another way around her. She will hit a step-back 3 in Elena's face. It's funny to watch them go at it."

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