LOS ANGELES – In recognition of Elena Delle Donne’s commitment and courage in the face of adversity, the Collegiate Women Sports Awards program is presenting the University of Delaware women’s basketball standout with the Honda Inspiration Award, given each year to an athlete who has overcome hardship to excel in her sport.
The Collegiate Women Sports Awards Board of Directors will present Delle Donne with the Honda Inspiration Award on June 23 as part of the live broadcast of the Honda Cup announcement from the ESPN Studios in Los Angeles, Calif.
The Honda Sports Award program recognizes the top women athletes in 12 NCAA-sanctioned sports culminating in the presentation of the Collegiate Women Sports Award’s top prize, the prestigious Honda Cup. Since Honda began its involvement in 1986, the company has provided more than $2.5 million in institutional grants to the universities of nominees and award winners.
When Delle Donne entered the University of Connecticut in 2008, she was doing what was expected from the nation’s top high school basketball player: joining an elite collegiate program. What she did next—leaving UConn to transfer to the University of Delaware—was a decision from the heart. Her older sister Lizzie, born with cerebral palsy, “is my angel and my motivation,” Delle Donne would later explain to the media of her return home to Wilmington, Del., where she was able to once again to show, in person, her love for her blind and deaf sister.
In her first year at Delaware, Delle Donne competed for the volleyball team. By the fall of 2009, she was again playing basketball, and as a redshirt freshman became the university’s first All-American. The next season, playing through a devastating bout with Lyme disease, she drew more accolades and set more Colonial Athletic Association records, galvanizing the community around Blue Hens basketball.
In the summer of 2011, the 6-5 guard/forward was named to the U.S. World University Games squad, the first Delaware player to compete in the international tourney. The squad went 6-0 to win the gold.
By 2011-12, Delle Donne had elevated Delaware’s program to a national contender, becoming the country’s leading scorer with an average of 28.1 points per game. The CAA Player of the Year also helped lead the Blue Hens to their first-ever CAA title and first postseason win, which came against the University of Arkansas-Little Rock in the first round of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.
“I am humbled by receiving this prestigious award,” said Delle Donne. “It is hard for me to believe that my story would be so inspirational as to warrant such a gift. I would hope that what people take away from my experience would be to appreciate that which is truly important in life. It is important for people to drive their life decisions and not let those decisions drive them.”
“It would be very rewarding to me if people can look upon the choices that I have made in the last five years and have that benefit them in their life choices.
“Leaving UConn, while it was the toughest decision I have ever had to make, was in some respects also the easiest decision I have ever had to make. To return back home to my family, and most importantly, my sister Elizabeth, felt so right and comfortable that I knew it was the right thing for me. I am very fortunate that I have a tremendous support group of family and friends back home. Not only did it affirm my decision to return, but it also helped me battle through chronic Lyme disease. As physically debilitating as the illness was, its mental impact was far greater. It threatened to take the game away from me, and in doing so confirmed in my mind, how much I truly loved the sport.”
Also the Capital One National Academic All-American of the Year for NCAA Division I women’s basketball, Delle Donne’s hard work is just as evident off the court. As an honors student, Delle Donne is majoring human services with a concentration in special education.
As the Honda Inspiration Award winner, Delle Donne joins an impressive roster of current 2012 individual Honda Sports Awards program winners, including Sheila Reid of Villanova University (cross country), Megan Frazer of the University of Maryland (field hockey), Teresa Noyola of Stanford University (soccer), Alex Jupiter of the University of Southern California (Volleyball), Caitlin Leverenz of the University of California, Berkeley (swimming & diving), Brittney Griner of Baylor University (basketball), and Kytra Hunter of the University of Florida (gymnastics).
Previous Honda Cup winners include Ann Meyers-Drysdale, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Mia Hamm, Lisa Fernandez, Misty May-Treanor, Courtney Kupets, Maya Moore, and Candace Parker.