By DOUG FEINBERG AP Basketball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) _ Elena Delle Donne is already leaving her mark in the WNBA.
The Chicago Sky star became the first rookie to lead the league’s All-Star voting when the starters were announced Thursday night.
Delle Donne received 35,646 votes, nearly 2,000 more than Los Angeles Sparks forward Candace Parker.
“I’m speechless about it, it’s incredible to come in as a rookie and know I have that many fans is so humbling and awesome,” said Delle Donne after her team beat the New York Liberty 75-55 in a matinee game Thursday. “I’ll try to continue to do them proud.”
The Chicago Sky first-year player, who was the No. 2 pick in the WNBA draft this past April, will be joined on the Eastern Conference squad by teammate Epiphanny Prince.
“I think I’m most happy that I get to start with Piph,” said Delle Donne, who is averaging 19 points a game this season. “That gives me some comfort that Piph’s out there with me.”
Prince is playing in her second All-Star game, but was honored to be voted in this year by the fans after being chosen by the coaches in 2011.
“It’s very humbling to me because there are a lot of great players out there,” Prince said. “For me it isn’t the first time, but it’s the first time the fans voted for me and I appreciate it.”
The other Eastern Conference starters are New York’s Cappie Pondexter, Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry and Indiana’s Tamika Catchings, who will be playing in her eighth All-Star game.
“It’s going to be extremely exciting to have some of those girls on my team now and also to continue to play against the best in the league,” Delle Donne said. “It should be a really good time and I will have a lot of fun with it and really enjoy myself.”
Parker will be playing in her first All-Star game. She had just given birth to her daughter Lailaa in 2009 and was injured in 2011. There were no All-Star games when she was a rookie in 2008 or last season because of the Olympics. In 2010, there was an exhibition between the U.S. national team and a group from the WNBA.
“It means a lot,” Parker said. “This will be my first time going and it’s really exciting. Anytime that you’re voted in it’s a huge honor. and I’m very humbled by that. It gives you motivation to prove yourself and continue to work hard.”
Parker will be joined in the starting lineup for the West by Phoenix teammates Diana Taurasi and rookie Brittney Griner. Minnesota’s Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus round out the Western Conference starting five.
Griner has missed the past three games while recovering from a sprained left knee.
“To be a rookie and for the fans to vote me in with the best players in the world _ that’s just an unbelievable honor,” Griner said.
With Griner and Delle Donne both starting, it marks the first time in league history that two rookies from the same class will be on the court for the opening tip of the All-Star game. Sue Bird and Catchings started in 2002. Catchings missed her entire 2001 rookie season because of a knee injury.
The All-Star reserves will be announced on Tuesday. The game will take place in Connecticut at the Mohegan Sun on Saturday, July 27. It’s the third time the game will be played there.
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