- Michelle Smith, Contributor, espnW.com
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DENVER -- When Elena Delle Donne returned to basketball, she gave some thought to the possibility of this moment.
The Delaware junior forward was one of 10 players who were at center court Saturday afternoon at Pepsi Center after being named to the WBCA Coaches' All-America team.
"When I came back, I still set lofty goals and this was one of those goals," Delle Donne said. "You never know what's going to happen, playing at a mid-major sometimes you don't always get the attention, so I'm definitely thrilled to be here."
The All-America team is loaded with young talent, including junior stars, Baylor center Brittney Griner and Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins, as well as four sophomores, headlined by Baylor guard Odyssey Sims.
Delle Donne might have wondered whether this kind of national recognition would come her way with the Blue Hens, a program with little history in women's basketball.
She's the history-maker now.
Delle Donne was the nation's leading scorer this season with 28.1 points per game and led Delaware to its first conference title and a top 10 national ranking. She reiterated that she does not regret leaving Connecticut just two days after she arrived as the nation's top recruit in 2008.
"I love where I am," said Delle Donne, who enrolled shortly thereafter at Delaware, where she is closer to her family in Wilmington. "It's been an incredible journey for me and it's not something I will ever really look back on or regret. It's been awesome."
Delle Donne's stay in the NCAA tournament was short. The No. 3 seed Blue Hens won their first-round game against Arkansas-Little Rock, but fell in an upset in the second round to 11th-seeded Kansas.
"It definitely stung," she said. "But I've had a lot of time to look at it and move on and prepare in the offseason. We are motivated for next year. We have all of our starters returning and obviously, I would love to be here (at the Final Four)."
Besides Delle Donne, the All-America team has Griner and Sims; Diggins; Stanford sisters Nnemkadi and Chiney Ogwumike; Connecticut's Bria Hartley; Maryland's Alyssa Thomas; Tennessee's Glory Johnson; and Miami's Shenise Johnson.
Nnemkadi Ogwumike, Glory Johnson and Shenise Johnson are the only seniors.
Sophomore Chiney Ogwumike, named for the first time, said she was surprised, particularly when she got a call asking for her size for a warm-up suit.
"This is ridiculous. I never expected this," she said. "Especially with four sophomores on the team. I had expectations when I grow older, but I didn't expect this at this point."
Nnemkadi Ogwumike became the third three-time WBCA Coaches All-American. This is the second time the Cardinal have two players on the All-America team.
The honor is bittersweet for Thomas, who is in Denver without her team. The Terrapins lost in the Elite Eight to Notre Dame.
"It's motivating," she said. "Just to get a taste of what the Final Four is like, I want to be here with my team next year."
12dBonnie D. Ford