Notre Dame incoming freshman guard Skylar Diggins (seen here at the 2009 McDonald's High School All-America Game) will appear at Wednesday night's ESPY Awards in Los Angeles (to air Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN) after being selected as the 2008-09 Gatorade National High School Athlete of the Year, following in the footsteps of past award winners such as LeBron James (2003), Dwight Howard (2004) and Candace Parker (2004).

Skylar Diggins Chosen As Gatorade National High School Athlete Of The Year

July 15, 2009

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Notre Dame women’s basketball incoming freshman guard Skylar Diggins (South Bend, Ind./Washington) has been named the 2008-09 Gatorade National High School Athlete of the Year, it was announced Wednesday afternoon in Los Angeles at a special ceremony held prior to the 17th annual ESPY Awards, which are slated to be held later that evening at the NOKIA Theater, also in Los Angeles. Diggins and the award’s male recipient for this year, quarterback Garrett Gilbert of Austin, Texas, will appear at the ESPY Awards show that will be taped for broadcast at 9 p.m. (ET) Sunday on ESPN.

One of the other five finalists for the male award was Notre Dame men’s soccer incoming freshman Dillon Powers (Plano, Texas/Plano Senior), who was the Gatorade National High School Boys’ Soccer Player of the Year.

The Gatorade National High School Athlete of the Year award has been presented annually since 2003 to the nation’s top overall male and female athletes across each of the 12 sports in which Gatorade presents a national player of the year award. A national panel of 300 sports journalists, coaches, prep sports experts and analysts reviews each of the 12 Gatorade National Player of the Year résumés, with the primary athletic criteria for selecting the nation’s top overall male and female high school athlete as follows:

  • Individual résumé, including historical context of accomplishments, statistics, honors, talent-level evaluation, etc.
  • Team play, including leadership ability and impact on team success.
  • Overall contributions to sport; including, but not limited to achievements/impact made at the club, national or international levels of competition, standout performances in multiple sports, etc.

Some of the previous recipients of the prestigious Gatorade National High School Athlete of the Year include: NBA superstars LeBron James (2003) and Dwight Howard (2004), as well as women’s basketball notables Candace Parker (2004), Tina Charles (2006) and Maya Moore (2007).

“I’m humbled and honored to receive such a tremendous honor,” Diggins said. “When you consider how many athletes and how many sports are under consideration for this award, it’s just such a blessing. I have been fortunate to play with some incredible teammates and for some amazing coaches during my high school career. I’m also so grateful for the love and support from my family, my friends, and the whole South Bend community, and I share this with each and every one of them.”

“What makes this award so special is that it recognizes teamwork and contributions to collective success,” Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said. “Both on and off the court, Skylar is an incredibly unselfish and giving person and we couldn’t be happier to hear that she is the Gatorade National High School Athlete of the Year. She will be an important addition to not only our program, but our entire University, during the next four years, and we are looking forward to having her on campus when classes start up next month.”

Diggins and fellow incoming freshman guard Kaila Turner (Joliet, Ill./Marian Catholic) join a Notre Dame squad that returns all 12 monogram winners from last year’s 22-9 club that made the program’s 16th consecutive trip to the NCAA Championship and tied for fourth place in the rugged BIG EAST Conference. The Irish also were ranked 23rd in the final ’08-09 Associated Press poll, extending their string of consecutive appearance in the AP poll to 38 in a row, heading into next season.

The Gatorade award is the latest in a series of national honors for Diggins, who took time out from training with the United States U19 World Championship Team in Colorado Springs, Colo., to attend the Gatorade and ESPY Award ceremonies in southern California. She and Team USA will depart for the FIBA U19 World Championships in Thailand on Friday and begin play in the 16-team tournament on July 23 vs. Spain (5:30 a.m. ET/4:30 p.m. local tipoff) in Bangkok. The event continues through Aug. 2, with the United States coming in as the two-time defending gold medalists.

Diggins recently completed a magnificent career at Washington High School in South Bend, capped off with Most Valuable Player honors at both the McDonald’s High School All-America Game and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) High School All-America Game — only former Tennessee and current Detroit Shock (WNBA) guard Alexis Hornbuckle had previously won both MVP awards (doing so in 2004). She also was the consensus 2009 national high school girls’ basketball player of the year, earning top billing from Gatorade, the Atlanta Tipoff Club (which presents the Naismith National High School Player of the Year award), ESPN Hoopgurlz and MaxPreps.

Diggins’ prep career may go down as one of the most storied in state history, after she led Washington High School to its fourth consecutive Indiana Class 4A state championship game appearance in 2009, making WHS one of only four schools ever to pull off that feat. In her four years on South Bend’s “West Side,” the Panthers posted a staggering 102-7 (.936) record, winning the 2007 4A state title (the first girls’ crown by a South Bend public school).

While helping WHS to a 26-1 record and a No. 1 national ranking (by ESPN Hoopgurlz) for much of this season, Diggins led the state in scoring at 29.0 points per game, while adding 6.3 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 5.4 steals and 2.2 blocks per game (ranking sixth in the state in steals and eighth in assists). What’s more, she was an exceptional shooter, connecting at a .616 clip (207-of-336) from the field, including a .406 mark (56-of-138) from three-point range. All told, she piled up 14 30-point games this season, with three coming in the state tournament, including a season-high 38 points in a semi-state victory over Pendleton Heights. She also tallied two double-doubles and one triple-double (nearly a quadruple-double) this year, amassing 28 points, 12 assists, 12 steals and nine rebounds in a season-opening win over LaPorte on Nov. 15.

A four-time high school All-American (including unanimous first-team honors in 2009), a four-time all-state selection and a runaway choice as this year’s Indiana Miss Basketball (leading the Indiana All-Stars to a sweep of their Kentucky counterparts last month), Diggins finished her career with 2,790 points, good for third in Indiana high school history behind only Shanna Zolman and Stephanie White. Overall, she averaged 25.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 4.4 steals and 1.5 blocks per game, holding Washington High School records in just about every meaningful category, including career and single-season points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. In addition, she owns 4A state championship game records with 17 rebounds (vs. Columbus East in 2007) and four three-pointers made (vs. Castle in 2006), as well as three of the top six scoring performances in the Class 4A title game, including a 29-point effort in this year’s 71-69 last-second loss to co-national No. 1 squad, Ben Davis High School, before more than 13,000 fans at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis in a game many have called the greatest in state history.

Off the court, Diggins personified the term “student-athlete,” graduating summa cum laude with a sparkling 3.92 cumulative grade-point average, placing sixth among a group of 300 students in her class who took advanced placement and other honors courses. She also was a peer mentor in high school, and served as physician’s assistant intern in Washington High School Medical Magnet Program. What’s more, she volunteered with the national Young Life ministry and participated in youth empowerment, leadership and educational-enrichment programs on behalf of her school’s Girlfriends Group, as well as the national Educational Talent Search and Project Excel programs.

— ND —