|ESPN.com: OTL||[Print without images]|
She was provided with a personal trainer from age 7.She was obsessed with being the best, always afraid someone was working harder than she was. Her skills seemed to be exceeded only by her maniacal work ethic. Elena Delle Donne towered over the competition. The 6-foot-4 guard from Wilmington, Del., could handle the ball as easily as the expectations. She could shoot like Bird. She was on the fast track to greatness until her heart began steering her in a different direction. "About age 13, I thought, 'I don't know if I want to do this anymore,'" Delle Donne says. "'It's not fun.'" But fun was never the objective. Delle Donne was the consensus 2008 Naismith National High School Basketball Player of the Year. She saw herself as the future of women's basketball. So did most everyone around her. She was supposed to follow her idol, Diana Taurasi, to Connecticut, win four national titles and become a superstar in the WNBA.
Elena Delle Donne sits down for an interview with Mark Schwarz on "Outside the Lines." Watch extended interview
"I don't know how you can play that much basketball and be that good at it and say, 'I hate it since the time I was 13.' To me, those two things don't go together that you would be that good at something and not enjoy any of it. It's hard for me to come to grips with," Auriemma says.
|Elena Delle Donne, a McDonald's All-American, walked away from basketball and decided instead to play volleyball at Delaware.|
|Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma says fans might never know why Delle Donne quit basketball.|
When coaches would ask the teenage Delle Donne whether she was feeling drained by a sport she played 12 months of the year, she would tell them burnout was not in her vocabulary.
"It's hard to explain, and people are like, 'How are you doing this?' Like, 'Look at your future, do you not see it?'" she says. "And I'm like, 'I do see what I could have been.' And it's harder for me than it is for anyone else because I see these God-given abilities that I've been blessed with and I can't go forth with them."
When Auriemma released Delle Donne from her scholarship, she transferred to the University of Delaware, 20 minutes from her home. She plays volleyball in front of crowds of fewer than 500 fans instead of the 10,000 raucous rooters who fill the Huskies' Gampel Pavilion for women's hoops games.
She no longer plays basketball. She recently was named to the Colonial Athletic Association All-Rookie Team for her new sport. "Now that I play volleyball, I know how it feels to have a passion for your sport," she says. "Before, I just thought, 'Maybe everyone's faking it because this is horrible.'"
|Delle Donne says she was burned out on basketball years ago. She feels passion for volleyball now.|
"I can't imagine Elena Delle Donne didn't love playing basketball," he says. "I can imagine she may not have loved the stuff that came along with it. That, 'I got to be Elena Delle Donne,' or, 'I've got to play at a certain level.' Maybe that makes more sense than, 'I hated the game since I was 13.' There's something missing, he says like a detective still searching for leads. "There's something not quite out there yet," he says. "There's a lot of things that don't fit together." Mark Schwarz is a reporter in ESPN's Enterprise Unit. His work appears on "Outside the Lines."