(left to right) Elena Delle Donne with her dad, Ernie, brother, Gene, and mother, Joan. (Photo courtesy of the Delle Donne family)
(left to right) Elena Delle Donne with her dad, Ernie, brother, Gene, and mother, Joan. (Photo courtesy of the Delle Donne family)

Fathers play big role in success of WNBA players

June 16, 2013 - 8:56am

Father's Day may be in the middle of the WNBA season, but that doesn't stop players from celebrating their dads, whether near or far.

Both Storm forward Camille Little and Sky forward Elena Delle Donne planned to rendezevous with their fathers in Atlanta this weekend, as each team was scheduled to play the Dream.

Little said she had a card and a gift for her dad. Delle Donne, whose team plays on Father's Day, is going to take her father out to dinner to "celebrate one-on-one." Ernie Delle Donne, a real estate developer, has been to every one of his youngest child's games since she was in college.

"I'm going to get my dad a Superman cape," Delle Donne said. "He is so selfless when it comes to his children. He has always made time for me."

Sparks veteran Ebony Hoffman will be at home for Father's Day, and plans to revive an old ritual with her dad.

"I'll probably take him on an overnight fishing trip," Hoffman said. "Our bonding is me and him fishing. He taught me how to fix a fishing hook. By honoring him, we always try to go fishing and kick it and just be peaceful."

For Connecticut Sun guard Renee Montgomery, the holiday usually presents a challenge.

"My Diddy is so difficult," the Sun guard said. "He doesn't like us spending money on him at all so my sisters and I have to get creative and get non-expensive things that he needs so he won't get upset."

For many WNBA players, their relationships with their fathers are forged in sports.

Lynx guard Monica Wright said her dad was a huge influence in her early basketball years.

"He was the main reason I played sports," Wright said. "He was an athlete growing up and he only has one daughter, so I obviously didn't have a choice but to be an athlete. He raised me kind of like a boy. I was always into sports and watching him. There was nothing girly about me. I always outside getting dirty; I was one of those girls that was a tomboy for sure."

Wright said it was her father who pushed her to become better in basketball - a tradition he continues today.

"He was my motivation to be the best in everything that I do. He still does to this day," Wright said. "He still has his coaching moments and loves to get online and watch the games and dissect it and see what we are doing and finding what our schemes are."

Montgomery's father was also her earliest coach, which helped cement their bond.

"When I was younger, every day when he would come home from work I would make sure I had all my homework finished so that we could go straight to our court outside and play," Montgomery said.

"He would do various drills with me and rebound for me, and at that time I was shooting bricks for days. He developed my basketball game from the basics. We started with ball handling, and worked our way up to different skills."

Little's dad also got her into the game, and became a coach, motivator and body guard.

"We played basketball all the time," Little said. "He would watch me play against guys while he was working at the recreation center, and he gave me pointers and encouraged me to keep playing. When I would beat them, he would tell me to go back down to the gym and beat another guy."

Of course, these basketball lessons trasferred to life in general. Delle Donne said her father helped her to form the big picture.

"My father has always been the one who told me I could achieve my lofty goals," she said. "He never told me I couldn't do something. He sat me down to hatch a plan and set goals."

Wright said she has great love for her mother, who has been helping her become a woman. But she defines herself as a daddy's girl.

"My dad is everything to me," Wright said.

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