April 15, 2013
BRISTOL, Conn. – For the second consecutive year, the Notre Dame women’s basketball program has seen one of its players selected near the top of the first round in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) Draft, as senior guard/co-captain Skylar Diggins (South Bend, Ind./Washington) was chosen by the Tulsa Shock with the third overall pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft that was held Monday night at the ESPN Studios in Bristol, Conn.
At No. 3, Diggins matches former teammate Devereaux Peters (’11) as the highest-drafted Notre Dame player in program history, with Peters going third overall in last year’s WNBA Draft to the Minnesota Lynx. What’s more, Notre Dame becomes just the second school to have players chosen with WNBA draft lottery picks in consecutive years since the introduction of the league’s draft lottery (a weighted system to help determine the order of the top four selections from among those teams that do not qualify for the postseason) — Connecticut had a three-year run of WNBA draft lottery choices from 2009-11.
Diggins’ selection also gives Notre Dame three first-round WNBA Draft picks in the past two seasons (all within the top eight overall selections), four in school history and 10 total draftees since 2001. In addition to Peters going at No. 3 last year, another of Diggins’ former teammates, Natalie Novosel (’12) went eighth overall in the first round to the Washington Mystics.
The trio of Diggins, Peters and Novosel join 2001 consensus National Player of the Year and three-time All-America center Ruth Riley (’01) as Fighting Irish players who were later selected in the first round of the WNBA Draft (Riley was chosen with the No. 5 overall pick in 2001 by the Miami Sol before being taken first overall in the 2003 WNBA Dispersal Draft by the Detroit [now Tulsa] Shock in 2003 when the Miami franchise folded). Riley is preparing to begin her 13th WNBA season next month, and her second as a member of the Chicago Sky.
“Skylar is a natural leader who is someone we are excited to build our team around at the guard position,” Shock President Steve Swetoha said. “Her style, intelligence and excitement for the game offensively and defensively is infectious and it is going to be fun to see her play in this lineup.”
“We are so excited to have Skylar join the Tulsa Shock,” Shock Head Coach Gary Kloppenburg said. “Her leadership and toughness fit perfectly with our style of play. I know our fans will make her feel welcome in Tulsa and our coaching staff can’t wait to start working with her in training camp on May 5.”
“I look forward for the opportunity to get to Tulsa, try my best to show my leadership skills and the skills made me so successful and made my team so successful in college and I hope it translates,” Diggins said.
Diggins recently completed a remarkable college career that saw her rewrite the Fighting Irish record books and help lead Notre Dame to three consecutive NCAA Women’s Final Four appearances (2011-13), including two national championship game berths (2011 and 2012), and a 130-20 (.867) record. In addition, during Diggins’ career, the Fighting Irish won back-to-back outright BIG EAST Conference regular season titles (2012 and 2013) and the 2013 BIG EAST Championship crown, with the latter victory making Notre Dame the first BIG EAST school other than Connecticut in 20 years to sweep the conference regular season and tournament championships in the same year.
Diggins leaves campus as the holder (or co-holder) of no fewer than 32 game, season or career records at Notre Dame, and ranks among the top five on an astounding 105 of the program’s game, season or career charts, including school records for career points (2,357), steals (381), games started (144) and double-figure scoring games (121), just to name a few.
What’s more, Diggins is the only player (of either gender) in Notre Dame basketball history to register 2,000 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists and 300 steals in her career, and one of only six NCAA Division I women’s basketball players since 1999-2000 to reach those impressive marks. She also stands among the top 15 players in BIG EAST history (regular season games only) in four career categories — assists (15th), steals (tied-15th), free throws made (7th) and free throws attempted (11th).
Diggins is the only player in program history to be a four-time All-America selection, earning consensus first-team honors the past two years to join Riley as the only Fighting Irish cagers ever to pull off that feat. In addition, she broke new ground in the Notre Dame history books as a three-time NCAA Regional Most Outstanding Player (2010-Dayton, 2011-Raleigh, 2012-Norfolk), a two-time BIG EAST Player of the Year and a two-time recipient of the Nancy Lieberman Award, given annually to the nation’s top point guard (the past two seasons making her just the third two-time honoree in the award’s history).
As a senior in 2012-13, Diggins started all 37 games, leading the BIG EAST in assists (6.1 apg.; also 19th in nation), while ranking fourth in scoring (17.1 ppg.) and third in steals (3.1 spg.; also 18th in nation; school-record 114 steals overall) and fourth in free throw percentage (.814). She also is among the conference’s best in assist/turnover ratio (5th – 1.67) and three-point percentage (6th – .362), and she led the team with 33 double-figure scoring games, including 12 20-point outings. Furthermore, she added three double-doubles and her second career triple-double after piling up 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in a Feb. 24 win at DePaul.
While with the Shock organization from 2003-06, Riley helped the franchise win two WNBA titles, earning WNBA Finals Most Valuable Player honors in 2003 to become the first of only two players to be named the finals MOP at both the college and professional levels (she earned the collegiate honor in 2001 while leading Notre Dame to its first national championship). In 2006, Riley teamed up with another Fighting Irish alum to drive the Shock towards another title, as Jacqueline Batteast (’05) came aboard after spending her rookie season in Minnesota.
A third Notre Dame standout joined the Shock’s roster in 2005, when current Fighting Irish assistant coach/recruiting coordinator Niele Ivey (’00) signed on as a free agent following four successful seasons with the Indiana Fever. Ivey, who subsequently was traded to the Phoenix Mercury before the 2005 regular season, was part of the Notre Dame contingent at Monday night’s WNBA Draft, along with the program’s Hall of Fame head coach (and 2013 consensus National Coach of the Year) Muffet McGraw.
Riley, who also has served as the first vice president of the WNBA Players Association since 2005, is one of three Fighting Irish players who have won WNBA titles during their professional careers — Batteast and 1991 graduate Coquese Washington (2000 Houston) also have earned league championship rings — while Riley is one of just nine women’s basketball players in history to earn an NCAA title, WNBA title and Olympic gold medal (2004) during her career.
Riley’s 2001 selection by Miami started Notre Dame’s current string of 10 players selected in the WNBA Draft. Also in 2001, Ivey was a second-round choice (19th overall) by Indiana, while Kelley Siemon (’01) was taken in the third round (48th overall) by the Los Angeles Sparks. A year later, Ericka Haney (’02) was a third-round selection (47th overall) by the Detroit Shock. They were followed by Minnesota’s selections of Batteast and Megan Duffy (’06) in 2005 and 2006, respectively, and Charel Allen (’08) going to Sacramento in 2008, before last year’s twin first-round picks in Peters and Novosel.
Three other Notre Dame alumnae — Washington, current associate coach Beth Cunningham (’97) and Katryna Gaither (’97) — spent time in the WNBA (selected in dispersal or allocation drafts, or signing as free agents) after previously playing in the now-defunct American Basketball League (ABL). Washington played for four teams from 1998-2003 and was the first president of the WNBA Players Association, while Cunningham played for the Washington Mystics in 2000 (both Washington and Cunningham later stepped away to pursue their coaching careers full-time), and Gaither saw time with five clubs from 2000-02 before electing to continue her professional playing career overseas.
Diggins and her new Tulsa teammates will open preseason play at 12:30 p.m. (ET) May 9 when they take on the Atlanta Dream at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla. The Shock then will play a pair of exhibitions on the West Coast, facing the Seattle Storm at 10 p.m. (ET) May 17 at Key Arena in Seattle, and taking on Los Angeles Sparks at 3 p.m. (ET) May 19 at SRC Arena in Riverside, Calif.
Diggins and Tulsa will open the 2013 WNBA regular season at 7 p.m. (ET) May 25, traveling to Atlanta to take on the Dream at Philips Arena. The Shock will play their home opener two days later with a Memorial Day matinee (3 p.m. ET) against Novosel and the Washington Mystics at the BOK Center in Tulsa in a game that will be televised live to a national cable audience on ESPN2.
Diggins’ Tulsa squad will play once each in Chicago and Indianapolis this season, visiting the Chicago Sky on June 2 (6 p.m. ET/5 p.m. CT) at Allstate Arena, then tangling with the Indiana Fever on June 28 (7 p.m. ET/6 p.m. CT) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Tulsa’s other ESPN2 nationally-televised games will be July 2 at Connecticut (8 p.m. ET) and July 11 at home against Los Angeles (9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT).
The official WNBA web site (wnba.com), as well as the individual team web sites for the Tulsa Shock (tulsashock.net), Chicago Sky (chicagosky.net), Minnesota Lynx (lynxbasketball.com) and Washington Mystics (washingtonmystics.com), features the complete 2013 schedule for each team, along with the dates when the Fighting Irish women’s basketball alumnae and their squads will be playing close to the Notre Dame campus, and details on how to purchase tickets for those games.
Notre Dame women’s basketball fans will have one more opportunity to celebrate this year’s sensational 35-2 campaign when the Fighting Irish hold their annual awards banquet April 23 in the Joyce Center Fieldhouse (north dome) — doors open at 5 p.m. (ET), with autographs from 5:30-6:30 p.m. (ET) and dinner at 7 p.m. (ET). Tickets are on sale through 5 p.m. (ET) Wednesday by visiting the Murnane Family Athletics Ticket Office located at Gate 9 of Purcell Pavilion.
Notre Dame is expected to return four starters and nine monogram recipients from this year’s squad, led by a pair of 2012-13 All-Americans in guard Kayla McBride (Erie, Pa./Villa Maria Academy) and forward Natalie Achonwa (Guelph, Ontario/St. Mary’s Catholic), along with the reigning United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Freshman of the Year, guard Jewell Loyd (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West). The Fighting Irish also will welcome a four-player incoming class that has been ranked as high as third in the nation by several national recruiting services.
For more information on the Notre Dame women’s basketball program, sign up to follow the Fighting Irish women’s basketball Twitter pages (@ndwbbsid 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.
— ND —