Editor's note: Charlie Creme, Graham Hays, Michelle Smith and Mechelle Voepel each vote to determine espnW's national player of the week, which is awarded every Monday of the women's college basketball season.
It's extremely difficult for a preseason All-American with Elena Delle Donne's backstory to slip into relative obscurity, but it happened. The recurring symptoms of Lyme disease that robbed her of six games early in the season, plus the natural result of playing in Newark, Del., and the Collegiate Athletic Association, knocked Delle Donne off the front page (or whatever passes as the front page these days).
Well, she's back.
Proof that Delle Donne has returned to form came this week, when she averaged 28.7 points in three games over six days. And the once-again dominant 6-foot-5 senior is espnW's national player of the week.
And if there was any question whether stamina would be an issue going forward, the week's best performance came during the third game of the stretch. In Sunday's 79-63 trouncing of Hofstra, Delle Donne scored 35 points on 10-of-20 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds. Twenty-one of those points came in the first half, including a halftime buzzer-beating 3-pointer that helped send Delaware to its 13th straight win. Even more telling: Delle Donne played 36 minutes against the Pride.
Her 26-point effort against Northeastern and 25-point performance at Georgia State were so good that she didn't have to play much in the second half of two easy victories.
Thanks to Delle Donne's efforts -- she has averaged more than 25 points per game since her complete return -- the Hens are 9-0 in the Colonial and moved back into the Top 25 last week. In fact, Delaware has won 28 straight regular-season conference games.
Delle Donne hasn't broken any records like Brittney Griner or led her team to arguably the season's biggest win as Skylar Diggins did on national television in the upset at Connecticut. But her recovery has given renewed hope to Delaware's season and put her back on the same page as the two other prominent players with whom she is most often associated.
Not that the Hens were a train wreck without her, going 5-2 as she slowly got her strength and energy back. But now their expectations can go beyond just making the NCAA tournament. A Delaware with Delle Donne is a threat to win a game (or more) like they did in March.
Delaware has returned to the national conversation, and so has Delle Donne.