April 2, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - For the second consecutive season, Notre Dame has seen three of its women's basketball players earn All-America honors from the Associated Press, the national wire service announced Tuesday.
Senior guard/co-captain Skylar Diggins (South Bend, Ind./Washington) was a unanimous first-team All-America selection by the 40-member media panel, her second consecutive first-team citation and the fourth AP All-America selection of her career (she was a third-team pick in 2011 and an honorable mention choice in 2010). Diggins is both the first Fighting Irish player to be tapped as a unanimous first-team All-American and the first four-time AP All-America honoree in school history, as well as the second Notre Dame cager to be a two-time first-team pick (Ruth Riley copped first-team honors in 2000 and 2001 after being chosen as a third-team selection in 1999).
Two other Fighting Irish players garnered the first AP All-America certificates of their careers. Junior guard Kayla McBride (Erie, Pa./Villa Maria Academy) was a third-team selection, while junior forward Natalie Achonwa (Guelph, Ontario/St. Mary's Catholic) was an honorable mention choice in the media balloting, which took place prior to the start of the NCAA Championship.
With McBride's selection, it marks the second time in program history Notre Dame has placed two players on the top three AP All-America teams. In 2001, current Fighting Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey was a third-team pick, joining Riley who was a first-team choice.
All three of Notre Dame's AP All-Americans this year also have been chosen as State Farm Coaches' All-America Team finalists and are in line to receive honorable mention accolades should they not be chosen for the final 10-member State Farm Coaches' All-America Team that will be announced Saturday afternoon in New Orleans by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA).
Besides Diggins, the rest of the 2013 AP All-America First Team consisted of: Brittney Griner (Baylor), Chiney Ogwumike (Stanford), Elena Delle Donne (Delaware) and Odyssey Sims (Baylor), with Griner joining Diggins as the lone unanimous first-team AP All-Americans this year.
Diggins already is the first Notre Dame women's basketball player to be both a four-time WBCA all-region selection and a two-time BIG EAST Conference Player of the Year, in addition to being a finalist for every major national player-of-the-year award including the State Farm Wade Trophy, Naismith Trophy and John R. Wooden Award. She also was a unanimous first-team all-conference honoree for the third year in a row, joining Riley as the only Fighting Irish women's basketball players to pull off that feat. In addition, Diggins is one of seven final nominees for the Nancy Lieberman Award (going to the nation's top point guard, an honor she received last season) and a finalist for the Senior CLASS Award.
Diggins has started all 35 games this season and leads the BIG EAST in assists (5.9 apg.), while ranking fourth in scoring (17.1 ppg.) and third in steals (3.0 spg.; school record 105 steals overall) and fourth in free throw percentage (.817). She also is among the conference's best in assist/turnover ratio (6th - 1.60) and three-point percentage (6th - .362), and she leads the team with 32 double-figure scoring games (giving her a school-record 119 for her career, three more than the previous Notre Dame record held by current Fighting Irish associate coach Beth (Morgan) Cunningham from 1993-97).
For her career, Diggins is Notre Dame's all-time leader in points (2,323), steals (372), games started (142) and minutes played (4,569), in addition to her mark for career double-figure scoring games. She also ranks second with 728 career assists (50 behind Mary Gavin's mark set from 1984-88) and 148 games played (three behind Brittany Mallory's record set last year).
Like Diggins, McBride was a first-team all-BIG EAST and WBCA All-Region I Team selection. She also garnered Most Valuable Player honors at the BIG EAST Championship and was a midseason candidate for both the Naismith Trophy and Wooden Award.
The 5-foot-11 guard has appeared in all 35 games (starting 34) for the Fighting Irish this season, ranking seventh in the BIG EAST in scoring (career-high 15.9 ppg.), while leading the conference with a career-best .913 free throw percentage. She also has scored in double figures 30 times this season and stands second on the team with seven 20-point games, including six in the past nine games and a career-high 28 points on March 26 in an NCAA Championship second-round win at Iowa.
In her first season as an everyday starter for Notre Dame, Achonwa joins Diggins as the only Fighting Irish player to crack the lineup for all 35 games. She ranks third on the team (17th in the BIG EAST) in scoring (13.9 ppg.) and second in the BIG EAST in rebounding (9.5 rpg.), posting career highs in both categories. She also is among the conference leaders in field goal percentage (7th - .527; also 22nd nationally) and free throw percentage (9th - .791).
Achonwa's biggest feat has been her school-record (and BIG EAST-best) 18 double-doubles this season, including seven against ranked opponents, after she had just one double-double in her career prior to this year. She also has scored at least 20 points in six games after having one 20-point game in her career before the 2012-13 campaign.
No. 2 Notre Dame (34-1) is back on the hardwood at 7 p.m. (ET) Tuesday when the top-seeded Fighting Irish take on No. 5 (and second-seeded) Duke in the NCAA Norfolk Regional final at the Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, Va. The game will be televised live to a national cable audience on ESPN and ESPNHD, with additional coverage on ESPN3/WatchESPN.
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.