Elena Delle Donne, the national high school player of the year and the top recruit in women's college basketball, said Wednesday that her abrupt departure from summer school at the University of Connecticut last week "is so much deeper than basketball."
The most celebrated recruit in the women's game since Candace Parker, Delle Donne said by telephone from her home in Wilmington, Del., that "I have a lot of personal issues to fix. Only my family understands what's going on. Right now I am going to take a long personal break."
When the all-time leading scorer in Delaware girls basketball history left UConn just two days after arriving and with no plans to return, the reverberations were felt in women's basketball circles all along the Eastern Seaboard. Rumors ran rampant that Delle Donne crumbled when an upperclassman blasted her during a pickup game for not running the floor.
Delle Donne on Wednesday adamantly denied harsh words were exchanged during an open-court session last week with other Huskies players.
"These are the most supportive teammates I've ever encountered," Delle Donne said. "They are such great people. I want to protect UConn because they've been so great to me."
Delle Donne's father, Ernie, echoed his daughter's remarks, saying, "I can only imagine those rumors came from somebody with an axe to grind or someone who is jealous of Elena's status in the women's game. Nothing could be further from the truth. Quite the contrary. Elena told me how ecstatic she was to play with those girls."
As to suggestions perhaps she no longer has the desire and passion to play and basketball is no longer her top priority Delle Donne said, "I'm not even sure if it's the sport. I'm not yet even pinpointing that it's the sport. I just need some time off."
For now, Delle Donne said she is not certain if, or when, she'll return to the University of Connecticut.
In the meantime, Delle Donne has been keeping in touch with Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma and his staff. The coaches, she said, have set no timetable for her return to Storrs.
"They haven't tried to pressure me. They only want what will make me happy. I want to have a good summer and I'm taking a personal break."
When asked what he hoped would result from this, Ernie Delle Donne would only say, "I want to see Elena use this timeout, break if you will, to get things figured out at home."
Ernie Delle Donne lauded Auriemma for "saying some things to Elena I'm not sure even I, as her father, could have said. The way Geno Auriemma has handled Elena's personal situation should make every little girl in America want to play for him. That man is an incredible individual."
Reporter Mark Schwarz works in ESPN's enterprise unit and for the program "Outside the Lines."