Kevin Tresolini - The News Journal
Having been lauded with her league’s highest annual honor last year, WNBA Most Valuable Player Elena Delle Donne on Monday earned her home state’s premier yearly sports reward.
The former Ursuline Academy and University of Delaware All-American was named Delaware’s 2019 Athlete of the Year by the Delaware Sportswriters & Broadcasters Association at its 71st annual awards luncheon at the Sheraton Wilmington South.
Delle Donne, 30, also earned the John J. Brady Award in 2008, 2010 and 2012 and became the first four-time recipient.
There had been two three-time Athlete of the Year honorees.
Dallas Cowboys Pro Football Hall of Famer Randy White, the 1971 McKean High graduate, was honored in 1973, 1974 and 1977.
Lewes High graduate Chris Short won the Brady while pitching for the Phillies in 1962, 1965 and 1966, though he did share it in 1966 with Delaware football player Herb Slattery.
Delle Done, 30, was named WNBA MVP for the second time in 2019 and sparked the Washington Mystics to their first league title. She was also league MVP in 2015 with the Chicago Sky, a year before she was on the U.S. Olympic team that won the gold medal.
Chicago had drafted her second overall in 2013 after Delle Donne closed her Delaware career by sparking the Blue Hens to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
The 6-foot-5 Delle Donne averaged 19.5 points, a career-high 8.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game for Washington last season.
She shot a career-best 51.5% from the field, 43.0% on 3-pointers and 97.4% on free throws, becoming the first WNBA player to surpass 50/40/90 in the same season.
Delle Donne underwent back surgery on Jan. 24 and was unable to attend Monday's event. Ursuline president Trisha Medeiros accepted on her behalf.
The DSBA handed out four other awards.
Appoquinimink’s unbeaten state baseball champs were honored as 2019 state Team of the Year. The Tubby Raymond Award as Delaware Coach of the Year went to Salesianum School swim coach Chip Hannig.
Octavion Wilson, a Milford High graduate and Salisbury University wide receiver, took home the Buddy Hurlock Unsung Hero Award. John Gretchen, founder and director of the Diamond State Classic girls basketball tournament, received the Herm Reitzes Award for Public Service.
Appoquinimink blanked Caravel 3-0 in the DIAA Baseball Tournament title game at Frawley Stadium on June 2. The Jaguars went 22-0. Only the 1976 Salesianum, 1989 Sussex Central and 1999 St. Mark’s teams had previously gone unbeaten in the state tournament’s 50-year history.
In accepting the award, coach Mike Torres, who was hired weeks before the start of the season, credited the players' diligence and focus and said, "This team will go down as one of the best in the state's history."
Hannig, 65, guided Salesianum to its 17th state title in his 19 years as swim coach in 2019. His teams are 119-22-1 in dual meets the past 11 seasons and haven’t lost to an in-state foe in four years.
The 1972 Salesianum graduate and former Sallies swim team captain had returned to the sport in his late 30s after a career as a distance runner, which included qualifying for and finishing the 1990 Boston Marathon, ended because of injuries.
Hannig was lauded by family, present and former swimmers and coaches, those he swims with now, softball players he coaches at Brandywine, friends from an annual Notre Dame football trip and others in a large gathering.
"I'm honored, humbled and I've been blessed and very lucky," he said.
Wilson was one of three college football players – and the first ever from a Division III school – chosen in December as a Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year. He was honored Dec. 28 at the Fiesta Bowl.
He’d been diagnosed with pericarditis, an inflammation of tissue lining the heart, while playing football at Mount Union College in Ohio in 2015 and 2016. The pericarditis caused peripheral neuropathy, in which brain and spinal cord nerves are damaged or diseased.
That caused some paralysis. With an uncertain prognosis, Wilson became so despondent that he contemplated suicide.
"I had a doctor look at me and tell me to forget football because I would never walk again," he said during an inspirational speech in which he urged high school athletes present to never give up on their dreams.
He recovered and eventually landed at Salisbury. Last fall, the 6-foot, 212-pound Wilson led the Sea Gulls with 23 catches for 398 yards and three touchdowns. Salisbury won the New Jersey Athletic Conference and reached the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division III football playoffs to finish 11-1.
Gretchen, a referee, founded his girls basketball Christmas gathering in 1991 at Wilmington College with four local schools and called it the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials Board No. 11 Scholarship Tournament.
It moved around before landing at the St. Elizabeth Center, became the Diamond State Classic and grew to typically have 20 teams annually from around the country. It has raised more than $1.8 million in scholarships and charitable donations.
The Diamond State Classic has been my life," Gretchen said, adding that associates helped "make this tournament a legend."
Contact Kevin Tresolini at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter @kevintresolini. Support local journalism by subscribing to delawareonline.com.