April 18, 2012
DETROIT - Capping off a sensational junior season, Notre Dame All-America guard Skylar Diggins (South Bend, Ind./Washington) officially accepted the 2012 Nancy Lieberman Award during a luncheon on Wednesday afternoon at the Detroit Athletic Club. The award is presented annually to the nation's top NCAA Division I point guard by the Rotary Club of Detroit, with Diggins being the first Notre Dame player chosen for the honor that debuted in 2000.
Sportswriters from across the country selected Diggins from a group of eight final nominees, with the award presented to the player who best exhibits the traits of floor leadership, play-making and ball-handling skills that personified Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman during her legendary playing career. Lieberman, a 1996 inductee into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, was on hand to present her namesake award to Diggins, while others in attendance included Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw, associate coach Carol Owens, and assistant coach Niele Ivey (herself a finalist for the 2001 Lieberman Award after leading the Fighting Irish to their first NCAA national championship).
Diggins was a consensus first-team All-America selection and a finalist for every major national player-of-the-year award in 2011-12. She also was chosen as the BIG EAST Player of the Year (the third Notre Dame player to be so honored and the first since 2005) and a two-time unanimous first-team all-conference selection.
This past season, Diggins became the first Fighting Irish player and just the fourth NCAA Division I player in the past decade (since 2001-02) to register 600 points, 200 assists and 100 steals in a single season. In fact, she set a school record with 102 steals, while her 222 assists were third-most on the Notre Dame single-season list, and her 657 points ranked fourth on the school's single-season chart. In addition, she posted the second-best assist-turnover ratio (2.16) by a Fighting Irish player in one season, and her four double-doubles tied for fourth-most by a Notre Dame guard in a single season.
That doesn't include the triple-double (22 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds) she registered on March 27 in the NCAA Raleigh Regional final victory over No. 5 Maryland, just the third triple-double in program history and the first in 22 years. It also was the first recorded by a BIG EAST player in the NCAA Championship, not to mention being only the second triple-double posted by any player in a regional final game (it's never happened in a Final Four contest), and the first since Old Dominion's Anne Donovan in 1983 -- coincidentally, Donovan and Lieberman were teammates at ODU in 1979-80, leading the Monarchs to the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) national championship.
In 2011-12, Diggins was the only BIG EAST player to rank among the top five in the conference in three of the five major statistical categories. She led the conference in both assists (5.7 apg. - 16th in nation) and steals (2.6 spg. - 55th in nation; school-record 102 steals overall), and she was fourth in scoring (16.8 ppg. - 70th in nation), while also posting her conference-best 2.16 assist-turnover ratio (10th in nation). What's more, she ranked among the top 15 in the BIG EAST in free throw percentage (9th - .786) and field goal percentage (tied-10th - .500; 35th in nation).
Diggins also wrapped up this past year's BIG EAST regular season statistical titles in assists (5.8 apg. - second Notre Dame player to win the BIG EAST assist title, and first since Ivey in 1999-2000), steals (2.6 spg.), and assist-turnover ratio (2.3). She finished conference play among the top 15 in the BIG EAST in scoring (3rd - 17.8 ppg.), field goal percentage (9th - .508) and free throw percentage (12th - .788).
Besides her seasonal awards, Diggins was chosen as the NCAA Raleigh Regional Most Outstanding Player and was a member of the NCAA Women's Final Four All-Tournament Team, becoming the first Notre Dame cager to be selected for either honor twice in her career (she was the 2011 NCAA Dayton Regional MOP before making the Final Four squad). She also was named to the Preseason WNIT and Junkanoo Jam all-tournament teams this past season.
In her career, Diggins already ranks among the top 10 on nine Fighting Irish statistical charts -- scoring average (4th - 15.3 ppg.), 20-point games (4th - 33), free throws made (4th - 414), free throws attempted (5th - 541), points (6th - 1,726), assists (6th - 520), steals (6th - 267), double-figure scoring games (6th - 88), double-doubles by a guard (6th - 6) and games started (9th - 107). She will enter her senior season needing 74 rebounds to become the first player in school history with 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists in her career.
Notre Dame is expected to have two starters and eight total players returning next season, along with a three-player freshman class that was ranked as high as third in the nation by All-Star Girls Report (and is a consensus top-10 class by all major recruiting services). It's the 16th consecutive year that the Fighting Irish have attracted a top-20 recruiting class, with Notre Dame being one of only three schools in the country that holds that distinction.
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