Sept. 12, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – On a day when Americans took time to remember those lost during the tragic events of 9/11, former University of Notre Dame women’s basketball All-America guards Skylar Diggins (’13) and Kayla McBride (’14) discovered even more meaning behind the USA Basketball uniforms they currently wear.
Both Diggins and McBride spent this week in Annapolis, Md., training with the USA Senior National Team at the U.S. Naval Academy and conducting youth clinics with the midshipmen, including several members of the Navy women’s basketball team. The Fighting Irish duo also were in Newark, Del., on Thursday night, taking part in the nationally-televised USA Basketball Women’s Showcase Game, an intrasquad scrimmage featuring participants in this week’s USA Basketball camp who are competing for a spot on the 2014 USA World Championship Team.
Diggins earned a starting spot with the White Team and collected 12 points and team-high six assists, while McBride came off the bench to score 14 points for the Red Team, which outlasted the White, 95-87 at the University of Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center.
However, the most poignant moment of the evening came at halftime. As part of USA Basketball’s “Hoops for Troops” movement, players and military personnel were called out on to the floor to be honored by the crowd. There, the military members gave each player and coach a pair of dog tags and the athletes and coaches in turn gave the service members a special military coin.
“It’s kind of surreal,” McBride said. “To be a part of (this) USA Basketball team is so limited compared to what officers do for us and their service. So it is just an amazing feeling to have something that we share together on this level because it is so much bigger than us, bigger than this, USA Basketball, and what they represent is amazing. It was really cool because they see us as superstars, but we see them the same way. And these dog tags are pretty sweet as well.”
“It’s great,” Diggins added. “When I got the word that I was going to have this opportunity to come and try out for the team, it’s always an honor. So many great players come out here and fight for a spot. It’s so competitive. There’s so much basketball knowledge, with the coaches and the committee, it’s just a great experience all around. Any time you have the opportunity to represent your country, you come and you take it. Being at the U.S. Naval Academy, it brings patriotism to another level. It makes you appreciate the people who surround you and who fight for this country. This whole experience is amazing.”
Diggins and McBride are members of the 2014-16 USA Basketball Senior National Team player pool, having qualified for the group following their performances at a USA Basketball mini-camp Oct. 4-6, 2013, in Las Vegas. At the time, McBride was entering her senior season at Notre Dame, making her the first active Fighting Irish women’s basketball player to suit up for the U.S. in any capacity. She and Diggins are aiming to be the first Notre Dame players to represent the United States in senior international competition since 2004, when Ruth Riley (’01) earned a gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.
Diggins is five-time USA Basketball gold medalist, most recently helping the United States to the title at the 2012 FIBA 3×3 World Championship, also held in Athens. McBride previously earned a gold medal with the victorious USA Basketball side at the 2010 FIBA Americas U18 Championship in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Following an initial set of roster cuts in the next few days (several members of the player pool currently are competing in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) Finals), the 2014 USA Basketball Senior National Team will face Canada in an exhibition game at 7 p.m. (ET) Monday at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn. The game will be televised live on ESPN2 and available online through the WatchESPN mobile platform.
Following the contest, the United States side heads to Europe for four additional exhibitions against 2012 Olympic silver medalist France, 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Australia, 2010 FIBA World Championship silver medalist Czech Republic and 2013 FIBA Asia bronze medalist China, prior to the start of the World Championship.
Finalists for the 2014 USA World Championship Team will compete in the France International Tournament Sept. 19-21 at the Stade Pierre de Coubertin in Paris. The U.S. will open against Australia on Sept. 19, followed by China on Sept. 20, and will close the round-robin tournament against host France on Sept. 21.
From there, the Americans will head to Prague, Czech Republic, for an exhibition against Czech Republic on Sept. 23, before traveling to Istanbul for their final pre-World Championship preparations.
The USA Basketball Women’s National Team Player Selection Committee will make all roster decisions for this year’s USA World Championship Team, including the selection of the final 12-player squad that will compete in Turkey. The Committee is led by USA Basketball Women’s National Team director Carol Callan, along with three WNBA appointees — Renee Brown, WNBA chief of basketball operations and player relations, Dan Hughes, San Antonio Stars head coach and general manager, and Chris Sienko, Connecticut Sun vice president and general manager — and three-time Olympic and two-time FIBA World Championship gold medalist Katie Smith, who played in nearly 200 games for USA Basketball from 1993-2008, and serves as the athlete representative.
“It’s a tough group of women,” Diggins said of this year’s National Team camp player pool. “(USA head coach Geno Auriemma) even said it (Sunday) that we have more and more players who can play at this level every year. You pick any of these girls and it would be well deserved; you’d go over there and do well. So, while you’re here, you just play ball. You just be yourself, find out what you do well and stick to it. It’s not necessarily the 12 best that played; they’re trying to pick a team. That doesn’t mean you’re not good. You’re invited here to be among the most elite in the world and, in my opinion, it’s the best of the best. So, you just have to play your game and just show up every day and sweat.”
“I feel like it is about the little things,” McBride added. “Everybody is the best at what they do on whatever team they are on, so it’s finding the little things that you can do. Running the court really hard, setting a great screen, flashing hard, getting somebody else open — that’s what USA Basketball is about. At the end of the day, scorers are going to be scorers, but who is going to play defense? Who is going to rebound? Who is going to run the floor hard? So I’m just trying to do those little things and find my role in that way, because the scoring is going to come just because we are so great and we can do everything. It’s just doing those little things and trying to make the coaches happy.”
DIGGINS EARNS FIRST-TEAM ALL-WNBA HONORS
Skylar Diggins continues to earn accolades for her performance during the 2014 WNBA season, receiving first-team all-WNBA honors earlier this week. She is the first Notre Dame alumna to make the league’s top squad, adding to her earlier runaway selection as the WNBA’s Most Improved Player.
Diggins was a clear choice for the second guard spot on the All-WNBA First Team, earning 140 votes to outdistance her nearest challenger, current USA Basketball Senior National Team and Minnesota Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen (116 votes) and placing only behind Diana Taurasi of the Phoenix Mercury (171 votes) among league guards. A panel of local and national sportswriters and broadcasters voted for this year’s all-WNBA teams, with Diggins and the other first-team honorees each receiving a $10,000 prize and a Tiffany & Co.-designed trophy.
Last month, the South Bend, Ind., native, completed her second professional season with the Tulsa Shock, who drafted her third overall (the second of three Notre Dame alumnae to be chosen No. 3 in the WNBA Draft, following Devereaux Peters (2012 by Minnesota) and preceding WNBA All-Rookie Team selection Kayla McBride (2014 by San Antonio)). This season, Diggins led Tulsa to a 12-22 record and a tie for fifth place in the WNBA’s Western Conference, helping the franchise post its highest win total since relocating from Detroit in 2010. In fact, since Diggins’ arrival in 2013, the Shock have won 23 games after earning just 18 victories combined in the three seasons before she came to Oklahoma.
In the midst of competing at USA Basketball Senior National Team camp this week, Diggins responded to her all-WNBA selection through her Instagram page:
“Grinding humbly and relentlessly … #blessed.”
“I am very proud of Skylar to attain all-WNBA honors,” Shock coach Fred Williams said. “Our staff and team members have seen her work so hard this past season to become one of the elite players in the WNBA. Skylar has passion and dedication to help our franchise get to the next level.”
Diggins more than doubled her scoring average in 2014, finishing second in the WNBA at 20.1 points per game after logging 8.5 ppg. as a rookie in 2013. She also showed improvement in assists, winding up fourth in the league at 5.0 assists per game (up from 3.8 apg. a year ago), while adding growth in rebounds (2.5 rpg., up from 1.9 rpg.), field goal percentage (.423 from .328) and three-point percentage (.282 from .244). She started all 34 games for Tulsa this year, leading the Shock in points, assists, steals (1.5 per game) and minutes (league-leading 35.1 per game), while scoring in double figures 33 times, including 18 20-point games, four 30-point outings and a career-high 34 points on July 22 at San Antonio.
Diggins also sparkled on the biggest stage at the nationally-televised 2014 WNBA All-Star Game in Phoenix, starting for the West Team and scoring a team-high 27 points (second-most in All-Star Game annals) in a 125-124 loss to the East, a contest termed by many observers as the finest in the game’s 12-year history.
Diggins indicated she plans to remain in the United States during the WNBA offseason and will continue training while pursuing additional opportunities through her agent, renowned music mogul Jay-Z and his management company, Roc Nation.
IRISH SELECT 2014-15 TEAM CAPTAINS
The Notre Dame Faculty Board on Athletics approved two items of business related to the Fighting Irish women’s basketball program earlier this week. The most notable decision concerned the release of the 2014-15 Notre Dame schedule, which was announced Tuesday in conjunction with the full Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) docket released by the league office.
However, no less important was the Faculty Board’s acceptance of this year’s Fighting Irish team captains, who were selected through a vote of their teammates and submitted to the Faculty Board for approval.
Senior guard Whitney Holloway (Plainfield, Ill./Montini Catholic), senior forward Markisha Wright (Des Moines, Iowa/Des Moines East) and junior guard Michaela Mabrey (Belmar, N.J./Manasquan) will share the captain’s duties this season, with all three players serving in that role for the first time in their respective careers. This will mark the sixth time in eight seasons, and the 10th time in program history that Notre Dame will have a trio of captains.
SERVING OTHERS BEFORE THEMSELVES
The Notre Dame women’s basketball program has long been celebrated as a leader in the South Bend community throughout a variety of service projects, including the nationally-recognized Pink Zone (Play4Kay) breast cancer initiative that has raised nearly $750,000 in its six-year history, and the vast majority of those donations going to cancer charities across Michiana. (EDITOR’S NOTE: This season’s Pink Zone game has been scheduled for 1 p.m. (ET) on Feb. 1, 2015, when Notre Dame plays host to Wake Forest at Purcell Pavilion.)
The Fighting Irish will once again be active in the community this weekend with a pair of service events. From 9 a.m.-noon (ET) Saturday, Notre Dame women’s basketball players and coaches will volunteer with Habitat for Humanity of St. Joseph County. The Fighting Irish will put on their hard hats to help in the construction efforts at the 2014 Women Build Home, located at 1448 E. Corby Boulevard in South Bend. The players and coaches will be building and raising basement walls, installing windows and trim on the house, and begin to add siding to the home’s exterior.
For more information on this worthwhile project, go online to https://www.habitat-for-humanity.org/womenbuild.
On Sunday afternoon, the Notre Dame women’s basketball team will head to Buetter Park (400 N. Spring Street in Mishawaka, Ind.) to take part in the 2014 Michiana JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes. The two-mile walk, which will be held rain or shine, begins at 2 p.m. (ET) and it holds a special significance for the Fighting Irish, who will be walking in honor of the team’s operations specialist Katie Schwab and to raise money for JDRF (the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation). Schwab, who currently is undergoing care at Regency Hospital, a long-term acute care facility in Portage, Ind., has been hospitalized since June 9 following complications related to her own battle with Type 1 Diabetes, the affliction that JDRF is looking to help eradicate.
In addition to the Fighting Irish women’s basketball student-athletes, several of the team’s young fans who serve as “ball kids” during Notre Dame home games, and who are calling themselves “Katie’s Kids,” have formed their own team for Sunday’s JDRF Walk.
Fans wishing to learn more about the Michiana JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes, including ways to donate to either Notre Dame women’s basketball group participating in the walk, or to register a team of their own, should go online to http://walk.jdrf.org/michiana.
Katie Schwab UPDATE
For those seeking regular updates on Schwab and her ongoing recovery, her family and friends have set up a page on the CaringBridge web site (http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/katieschwab). Supporters who would like to send Schwab notes, cards or other words of encouragement now are asked to send them directly to members of the Katie’s family (S. or K. Schwab, 325 Runaway Bay Circle, Apt. 1-D, Mishawaka, IN 46545 or J. Schwab, 315 Runaway Bay Circle, Apt. 2-D, Mishawaka, IN 46545), who will be happy to deliver your messages — we all believe the support shown by the Notre Dame women’s basketball community (and others outside the Fighting Irish family) continues to do wonders to help speed Katie’s healing, so thank you and keep those prayers and cards coming!
WOMEN’S BASKETBALL SEASON TICKETS SOLD OUT ONCE AGAIN
For the sixth consecutive year, Notre Dame has sold out its season ticket allotment, with more than 7,600 tickets purchased for the 2014-15 season. The Fighting Irish saw nearly 90 percent of its season ticket holders renew their season tickets for the upcoming campaign, with eager fans snapping up the remaining ticket packages less than 72 hours after they went on sale Tuesday.
Single-game tickets will go on sale for the 2014-15 season next month, with season ticket holders having the first opportunity to make purchase at 8:30 a.m. (ET) Oct. 21. Any remaining single-game tickets will be made available to the general public at 8:30 a.m. (ET) Oct. 23.
Last year, Notre Dame tied a program record by ranking fourth in the nation in attendance (8,694 fans per game), and placing among the top five in the country in attendance for the fifth consecutive season (as well as the top 16 in the nation each of the past 14 years). In addition, the Fighting Irish averaged better than 8,000 fans per game for the fifth year in a row and have had 35 sellout crowds in that time (an average of seven per season).
What’s more, Notre Dame fans filled Purcell Pavilion to better than 95 percent of its total capacity in 2013-14, the best of any school in the country. That support clearly produced yet another intimidating home court advantage and led to a perfect 17-0 record on the court, with no team other than the Fighting Irish that reached the NCAA Final Four or NCAA regional finals (Elite Eight) last year even managing to fill their arena to 70 percent of its capacity.
For more information on Notre Dame women’s basketball tickets, contact the Murnane Family Athletics Ticket Office (574-631-7356; UND.com/buytickets or @NDTIX) weekdays during normal business hours (8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. ET).
IRISH ON TELEVISION
Notre Dame saw two more of its 2014-15 games picked up for television this week when it learned that the Dec. 3 contest against Maryland (scheduled for 7 p.m. ET in Fort Wayne, Ind., as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge) will air live on ESPN3, while the Dec. 10 game at DePaul, slated to tip off at 9 p.m. (ET)/8 p.m. (CT), will be shown live on Fox Sports 2, which is available on most cable systems, as well as on major satellite providers DirecTV and Dish Network.
The Fighting Irish now will have 24 regular season games (plus their Nov. 5 exhibition against Ferris State) broadcast on either over-the-air television or through free Internet streaming, highlighted by nine appearances on the ESPN family of networks (one on ESPN, three on ESPN2 and five on ESPN3) and a 10th national broadcast through the DePaul game on Fox Sports 2. Another four games will air live on a regional basis through the ACC-Regional Sports Networks (RSN) package, while all other Fighting Irish home games not scheduled for commercial television will be streamed live and free of charge on the official Notre Dame multimedia platform, WatchND (watchnd.tv).
The Fighting Irish still await the start times for the Nov. 19 game at Michigan State and the Dec. 28 game at UCLA, with both of those opponents awaiting the announcement of their conference television packages (the Big Ten Network and Pac-12 Networks, respectively) later this month.
FOLLOWING THE FIGHTING IRISH
For more information on the Notre Dame women’s basketball program, sign up to follow the Fighting Irish women’s basketball Twitter pages (@NDsidMasters or @ndwbb), like the program on Facebook (facebook.com/ndwbb) or register for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the “Fan Center” pulldown menu on the front page at UND.com.
— Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director