NEW CASTLE -- Elena Delle Donne has been in the media glare since she was in eighth grade at Ursuline Academy, and she seemingly has been through it all in the past nine years. There was the meteoric rise to national recognition, four high school championships, an intense recruiting war between the NCAA’s two most prominent coaches, arrival and quick departure from Connecticut, a hiatus from basketball, resurfacing at the University of Delaware, a foray into volleyball and, finally, success for the Blue Hens.
“Through it all, she maintained a sense of her being,” said Sue Kampert, one of Delle Donne’s teachers at Ursuline and an assistant coach for the Raiders.
Kampert spoke Monday afternoon at the 64th annual Delaware Sportswriters and Broadcasters Association luncheon, where she accepted the 2012 John J. Brady Athlete of the Year Award on behalf of Delle Donne, who was in Virginia with the University of Delaware women’s basketball team. It was the third time Delle Donne has won the award (2008, 2010); she joins the late former Phillies pitcher Chris Short and football hall of famer Randy White as the only three-time recipients.
Kampert talked about Delle Donne’s brief stay in Storrs, Conn., and how when she returned to Delaware she called Kampert and asked if she could stop by the coach’s summer camp to help out. Delle Donne explained to Kampert her relationship with her older sister, Lizzie, who cannot see or speak. The two communicate through touch and smell. Kampert marveled at Delle Donne’s dedication to Lizzie and her growth as a person.
“I see 10 percent of her basketball skills and 90 percent of her character,” Kampert said. “I say as good of a basketball player she is, she’s a better person.”
The Brady Award, of course, is primarily a measure of an athlete’s on-field or on-court success, and Delle Donne had plenty in 2012. She was a first-team All-American, finalist for National Player of the Year and the winner of the Honda Inspiration Award. She scored 28.1 points per game to lead the country and was in the top 20 in rebounds, blocks and field-goal percentage. The Blue Hens went 31-2, losing in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to Kansas, 70-64.
For a more complete list of Delle Donne’s accomplishments, see www.bluehens.com/teams/womens-basketball/info/rosters/2013/delledonne.html.
She was not the only honoree at the luncheon. The 2012 Team of the Year was the Middletown High School football team. The Cavaliers went 12-0, capturing their second straight state title in a most dominating fashion.
Middletown was loaded with talent, including quarterback Darius Wade, running back Jamar Baynard, receivers Chris Godwin and Thomas Davis, and offensive and defensive lineman Jacob Smulski. The Cavs forced a running clock in every game except for the playoff semifinal vs. Caesar Rodney, and they outscored their opponents by an average score of 47-12. Many of those points allowed came after the reserves had entered the games.
“I’m so proud of our guys, not only for what they do on the field, but off” Cavaliers coach Mark DelPercio said at the luncheon.
DelPercio said the team and town have become like a family. Unlike nonpublic schools, the players from Middletown all come from the same area and represent the town.
The 2012 Tubby Raymond Coach of the Year Award went to P.J. Kesmodel, who has led Cape Henlopen girls lacrosse to four straight state championships. Kesmodel was a coaching legend in Maryland, winning both girls and boys state titles there, before retiring to Lewes. He took his winning ways to Cape Henlopen, and in 2009 his team broke the longtime stranglehold on the championship by Tower Hill and St. Andrew’s.
The Vikings have defeated St. Andrew’s in three of the four championship game during their current run, and last year’s win capped a perfect 15-0 season in Lewes. They have won 47 straight games against in-state competition.
Kesmodel credited a long list of people for making his honor possible, from assistants who materialized at the last minute to parents and boosters.
“It obviously ended up pretty good for the season,” he said.
The Herm Reitzes Award winner, for service to the Delaware athletic community, was Harold Hoagland, who was recognized posthumously. Hoagland, who covered William Penn High School and other schools for the New Castle Weekly. He died Dec. 20 at the age of 86.
“Harold has done so much to help young men and women to be properly recognized” for their achievements, DSBA member Chuck Durante said.
Hoagland was also remembered for his work as a Little League coach and as a member of New Castle United Methodist Church. His widow, Helen, accepted the award on her husband’s behalf.
“I’m just sorry that he wasn’t here to receive this,” Helen Hoagland said.
At the meeting, the DSBA announced that it will add another honor beginning next year. The Buddy Hurlock Unsung Hero Award. It will recognize an athlete who has overcome some difficulty to stay active and excel in sports.
Hurlock, who was the high school sports beat writer for The News Journal for several years, died last May after an 18-month battle with brain cancer. Hurlock’s positive attitude and spirit is the inspiration behind the award.