Elena Delle Donne was 5, maybe 6 years old when she received her first tool box as a Christmas gift.
Even then, she was obsessed with building things from scratch. Her inspiration came from the visits she made with her father to construction sites. She began making small-scale creations at home with K’Nex and Legos. In high school, she took shop class and became a jigsaw puzzle whiz.
Entering her fourth season with the Sky, who open the season Saturday at Allstate Arena against the Connecticut Sun, Delle Donne is constructing her own brand — not only as the face of the WNBA, its MVP and a first-time Olympian, but as a bona fide do-it-yourselfer.
Delle Donne, along with friends Amanda Clifton and Megan Gainey, recently listed their $950 custom-built tables on the popular craft website Etsy, and orders are starting to roll in.
No one is giddier about the venture than Delle Donne.
“It’s a good outlet,” she said. “All I’m focused on [at the time] is the table, having a good time with my friends. It’s something without basketball because you have to get away from it.”
The fact Delle Donne is involved with the operation comes as a surprise to many.
“Not many people, in their spare time, are building tables,” Clifton said. “But it’s completely different than her work life in the WNBA.”
The group, which has yet to come up with a name, constructed its first dining-room table in only two days when Delle Donne needed one for her home. That led to an order from Delle Donne’s agent before another request arrived from Sky assistant coach Christie Sides.
With orders to fill, the three break the workload into stations. One cuts wood, one sands and the third stains before they work together on the final construction phase. They rotate the responsibilities to avoid the work becoming mundane while keeping the production line moving. That changes once the WNBA season begins.
“We try to keep [Delle Donne] away from the power tools,” Clifton said.
As the Sky look to rebound from a disappointing loss to the Indiana Fever in the Eastern Conference semifinals last season, Delle Donne has shifted her focus to basketball after spending the offseason pursuing marketing opportunities.
Delle Donne, along with veterans Cappie Pondexter, Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot, plan to use the loss as motivation.
While Pondexter holds down the role of vocal leader, Delle Donne, who led the league in scoring last season, has found her niche in making her teammates better.
“She’s starting to find her voice,” coach Pokey Chatman said. “She understands players expect that from her, they welcome that, it’s needed and it’s a different way of leading, and she’s getting comfortable in that.”
Although the season and Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will command Delle Donne’s attention, she won’t lose sight of a hobby that has added a new dimension to her life.
“I love doing it,” Delle Donne said. “I enjoy it greatly, and as long as I enjoy it, I’ll keep doing it.”
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