May 7, 2009
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - For the sixth time in eight years, Notre Dame will be represented at the USA Basketball Women's National Team Trials, as incoming freshman guard Skylar Diggins (South Bend, Ind./Washington) has accepted an invitation from USA Basketball to compete in the USA U19 World Championship Team Trials, which will take place May 14-17 in Colorado Springs, Colo., at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. The invitations were issued by the USA Basketball Women's Junior National Team Committee, chaired by Sue Donohoe, the NCAA's vice president for Division I women's basketball.
A total of 27 players ages 19-and-under (born on or after Jan. 1, 1990) have been invited to take part in this month's USA Basketball U19 National Team Trials, which will be used to select finalists for the 12-member team that will represent the United States at the 16-team FIBA U19 World Championship For Women, scheduled for July 23-Aug. 2 in Bangkok, Thailand. The 2009 USA U19 World Championship Team will be coached by Northern Illinois skipper (and former Notre Dame aide) Carol Owens, with Iowa State's Bill Fennelly (another former Irish assistant) and Florida's Amanda Butler serving on Owens' staff.
Diggins is no stranger to USA Basketball, having earned gold medals at the 2007 USA Basketball Youth Development Festival in Colorado Springs, as well as the 2008 FIBA U18 Americas Championship in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In the latter event, she started all five games for the Owens-led United States squad, which went 5-0 and successfully qualified for this year's U19 World Championship For Women. During the U18 Americas tourney, Diggins averaged 10.8 ppg. (second on team), 3.2 rpg., 3.6 apg. (first on team) and 2.0 spg. (tied-first on team). She also ranked among the top 10 in the entire tournament in scoring (10th), field goal percentage (7th - .500), assists (2nd), steals (tied-8th) and assist/turnover ratio (2nd - 2.00).
At the '07 USA Basketball Youth Development Festival, Diggins helped the USA White Team to a 5-0 record, averaging 8.6 ppg., 5.0 rpg., 3.2 apg., and 2.0 spg., during the round-robin tournament. What's more, among all 2007 Festival participants, she ranked second in assist/turnover ratio (1.45), fourth in assists (16), tied for eighth in blocks (4) and tied for 10th in steals (10).
Diggins will head to Colorado Springs next week following the completion of a stellar career at Washington High School in South Bend, capped off last month 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 standout Alexis Hornbuckle had previously won both MVP awards. She also was the consensus 2009 national high school 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, 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.
"We're thrilled that Skylar has been invited by USA Basketball to compete in this year's U19 National Team Trials," Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said. "She already has experienced a great deal of success representing our country on the international level and I'm confident that will only continue this summer. She will be an excellent ambassador for not only our program, but the University and the South Bend community as a whole, and we are all looking forward to following her progress during next week's trials in Colorado."
Should Diggins be selected for the final 12-member USA U19 World Championship Team (whose roster will be chosen prior to the start of the international competition in late July), she would become the sixth Notre Dame women's basketball player, and the fourth in six years, to compete for the United States on the international level. Most recently, current Irish junior point guard Melissa Lechlitner (Mishawaka, Ind./South Bend St. Joseph's) struck gold with the 2007 U19 World Championship Team that rolled to a 9-0 record -- Lechlitner also became the first South Bend-area female to earn a gold medal in international basketball competition.
Other recent representatives of the Notre Dame women's basketball program to compete on the world stage include: Megan Duffy, who claimed a gold medal as a co-captain and starter for the 2005 USA World University Games Team, and Ruth Riley, who was a member of the 2004 U.S. Senior National Team that struck gold at the Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. Riley also made prior USA Basketball appearances in 1998 (Select Team) and 1999 (World University Games Team), while former Irish All-Americans Katryna Gaither (two teams, two medals) and Beth Morgan (four teams, three medals) also have suited up for Team USA. All told, Notre Dame players have earned 10 medals in international competition, including five gold medals.
Diggins also is one of four players on the 2009-10 Irish women's basketball roster that have participated in USA Basketball Trials. In addition to Lechlitner, junior all-BIG EAST Conference guard Ashley Barlow (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike) competed at the 2007 U19 World Championship Team Trials, while senior all-conference guard Lindsay Schrader (Bartlett, Ill./Bartlett) took part in both the '04 Junior World Championship Team Trials (the precursor to the current U19 squad) when she was a finalist, and the '06 U20 Women's National Team Trials. They are the latest in a group of nine current or former Notre Dame women's basketball players have taken part in USA Basketball Trials since 2002.
Diggins is one of six invitees with BIG EAST ties who will compete in this month's U19 National Team Trials. Joining her will be Connecticut incoming freshman Kelly Faris, DePaul freshman Keisha Hampton, Rutgers freshman Nikki Speed, St. John's freshman Da'Shena Stevens and Pittsburgh freshman Shawnice Wilson. The complete roster of invitees for this year's U19 Trials can be found on the USA Basketball web site (www.usabasketball.com).
"I'm excited to get started with trials next week," Owens said. "We have so many great athletes who will be competing hard for a spot on the team. I'm actually happy that I don't have to pick the team because I know it's going to be a tough decision for the committee. This is just the first step in what we need to do in order to defend our gold medal and I'm looking forward to the entire process."
FIBA, basketball's international governing body, announced on Feb. 26 the draw for the 2009 FIBA U19 World Championship For Women, and the USA has been placed in Group D, along with China, Mali and Spain. After round-robin play, the top three teams in each of the four groups will advance to second-round pool play (two groups of six teams), with the top four squads in each second-round division moving on to the medal round. The quarterfinals, semifinals and finals will be played on consecutive days from July 31-Aug. 2, with the gold medal game slated for 7 a.m. ET (6 p.m. in Thailand) on Aug. 2 at the Bangkok Thai-Japan Youth Center.
Originally known as the FIBA Junior World Championship, the tournament was held every four years beginning in 1985. FIBA then changed its calendar in 2005, with the tournament since having been conducted every other year. USA women's teams are 41-10 in the U19/Junior World Championships, coming home with a record-setting three golds and one bronze, all in the past four tournaments (1997, 2001, 2005, 2007). During its current run of success that started in '97, the United States has amassed a sharp 29-2 record in U19/Junior World Championship play, including an active 18-game winning streak since a 92-88 upset loss to the host Czech Republic in the 2001 semifinals.
"Given the wealth of talent we have in these 27 young women, selecting this year's USA U19 World Championship Team is not going to be an easy task for the committee," Donohoe said. "We have some amazing players who will be trying out for just 12 roster spots and I expect that each trials session will be very competitive. However, I feel confident that the committee will be able to put together a team that will make the United States proud in its quest for a third consecutive FIBA U19 World Championship gold medal."