May 9, 2011
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - For the eighth time in 10 years, Notre Dame will be represented at the USA Basketball Women's National Team Trials, as three Fighting Irish All-Americans -- sophomore guard Skylar Diggins (South Bend, Ind./Washington), junior guard Natalie Novosel (Lexington, Ky./Lexington Catholic) and senior forward Devereaux Peters (Chicago, Ill./Fenwick) -- have accepted invitations from USA Basketball to compete in the USA Women's World University Games Team Trials, which will take place May 22-25 in Colorado Springs, Colo., at the U.S. Olympic Training Center (USOTC). 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.
Thirty-five of the nation's top collegiate players will take part in the upcoming USA Basketball Women's World University Games Team Trials, which will be used to select the 12-member team that will represent the United States at the 16-team World University Games, scheduled for Aug. 14-21 in Shenzhen, China. The 2011 USA World University Games Team will be coached by Iowa State University skipper (and former Notre Dame assistant coach) Bill Fennelly, with Duquesne's Suzie McConnell-Serio and Georgetown's Terri Williams-Flournoy serving on Fennelly's staff.
Notre Dame is one of three schools with three players attending this year's USA Basketball World University Games Team Trials, along with fellow NCAA finalist Texas A&M and Miami (Fla.). The Fighting Irish trio also headlines a group of seven BIG EAST Conference players chosen for the trials, more than any other conference in the country.
"We couldn't be more proud of Skylar, Natalie and Devereaux," Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said. "All three of them have worked exceptionally hard this year and this USA Basketball trials invitation is a deserving reward for the time and effort they have put in. The benefits they get from these trials will be so valuable as we continue our preparation for next season, and the opportunity to represent your country on the international stage is really something that can't be measured. I'm positive all three players will represent their teammates, our program and our University with class and distinction throughout their entire USA Basketball experience."
Diggins put together one of the finest sophomore seasons in Notre Dame women's basketball history in 2010-11. The crafty southpaw made a nearly-seamless transition to the point guard position this past season, ranking among the top 15 in the BIG EAST in scoring (15.0 ppg.), assists (team-high 4.8 apg.) and steals (1.9 spg.), posting career highs in all three areas. What's more, her 585 total points and 186 total assists are the second-most ever accrued by a Notre Dame sophomore -- Katryna Gaither scored 590 points in 1994-95, while Mary Gavin dished out 205 assists in 1985-86 -- and her 75 steals are fourth on the Fighting Irish sophomore charts (just eight off the school record), while her 1,226 total minutes were just one shy of Beth Morgan's school record set in 1996-97.
A State Farm Coaches' All-America and third-team Associated Press All-America selection this year, Diggins also ranked second on the team with 32 double-digit scoring games, leading the squad in scoring 14 times and rolling up 10 20-point outings, including the last three NCAA Championship games against Tennessee (24), Connecticut (season-high 28) and Texas A&M (23). She added at least five assists in 22 different games (after having seven five-assist games her entire freshman season), capped by a career-high 12 assists against Oklahoma in the NCAA Dayton Regional semifinal, the most helpers ever for a Fighting Irish player in the NCAA tournament, and most in any game since 2000.
A unanimous first-team all-BIG EAST selection, the NCAA Dayton Regional Most Outstanding Player and a member of the NCAA Women's Final Four All-Tournament Team, as well as being a finalist for the three major national player-of-the-year awards (State Farm Wade Trophy, John R. Wooden Award, Naismith Trophy) and the Nancy Lieberman Award (top point guard), Diggins also made history in that regional final win over Tennessee, becoming just the second Notre Dame player to score 1,000 career points in less than two seasons with the Fighting Irish (Morgan had exactly 1,000 points at the end of her sophomore season of 1994-95), and doing so in 72 games, tying for the fourth-fastest run to the scoring millennium in program history. Diggins currently ranks 24th on Notre Dame's all-time scoring list with 1,069 points.
On the international stage, Diggins has earned a gold medal with two USA Basketball teams -- the 2008 FIBA U18 Americas Championship and the 2009 FIBA U19 World Championships for Women, with both squads led by current Notre Dame associate coach Carol Owens. Diggins also took home a gold medal from the 2007 USA Basketball Youth Development Festival. She is one of eight players at this year's USA World University Games Trials with USA Basketball experience, most notably serving as co-captain for the 2009 U19 World Championship squad (an honor she shared with Stanford's Nnemkadi Ogwumike, who also will be participating in this year's World University Games trials).
Meanwhile, Novosel will be making her first-ever appearance at the USA Basketball trials. Easily one of the nation's most improved players in 2010-11, Novosel was a State Farm Coaches' honorable mention All-America and first-team all-BIG EAST choice, as well as the BIG EAST's Most Improved Player, after more than tripling her scoring average from a year ago from 5.0 points to a team-high 15.1 points per game, while scoring in double figures a team-best 33 times, the second-highest single-season total in school history (Gaither had 37 double-digit games in 1996-97) and nearly doubling her combined total of 17 from her first two years. Novosel also had seven 20-point games (her career high entering the season was 19 points) and posted a team-best .413 three-point percentage, in addition to being second on the squad in steals (tied-1.9 spg.) and third in assists (1.9 apg.).
In 2010-11, Novosel set a new school record with 183 free throws made and 39 games started (tying with Peters and senior forward/co-captain Becca Bruszewski), while her 232 free throw attempts were second-most in school history. What's more, she placed among the top 10 on the program's single-season charts for total points (7th - 588) and minutes played (9th - 1,102).
Like Novosel, Peters is slated to compete at USA Basketball team trials for the first time as a collegian. The Chicago native enjoyed her finest season at Notre Dame in 2010-11, having fully recovered from a pair of knee injuries earlier in her career. Peters set new career highs in virtually every category, ranking third on the team in scoring (11.9 ppg.) and tops in double-doubles (10), rebounding (7.5 rpg.), field goal percentage (.593), and blocked shots (1.7 bpg.), not to mention fourth in steals (1.7 spg.). She also placed fifth in the country in field goal percentage, and ranked among the BIG EAST leaders in scoring (22nd), rebounding (6th), field goal percentage (2nd), blocked shots (4th) and double-doubles (2nd). What's more, she was one of just two players in the nation to record at least 60 blocks and 60 steals this season (she had 68 blocks and 66 steals), joining Illinois' Karisma Penn (78/62) in that select company.
Peters was named a State Farm Coaches' honorable mention All-America and first-team all-BIG EAST selection this year, while also taking home BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year honors. She scored in double figures 25 times and tied the school record by starting all 39 games during Notre Dame's run to the NCAA national championship game. In that title clash against Texas A&M, Peters rang up a double-double with 21 points (on 8-of-10 shooting) and a game-high 11 rebounds, securing her place on the NCAA Women's Final Four All-Tournament Team.
In absentia, Peters is slated to receive her bachelor's degree in film, television & theater from Notre Dame's College of Arts and Letters at the University's commencement exercises on May 22. She will be one of two USA World University Games Trials attendees (along with Tennessee's Glory Johnson) who will have earned her degree prior to the trials. Peters (along with Fighting Irish senior guard Brittany Mallory) has applied to Notre Dame's Faculty Board on Athletics for a fifth year of eligibility (she played in just three games in 2007-08 before suffering her second knee injury), and both Peters and Mallory are awaiting the Board's decision on their applications to return for 2011-12.
Should any of the Notre Dame players be selected for the final 12-member USA Women's World University Games Team (which will be named on May 25 and return to Colorado Springs July 31-Aug. 8 to train prior to the team's departure for China and the start of competition on Aug. 14), they would join a group of eight Notre Dame women's basketball players (including six in the previous seven years) that have competed on the international level. Most recently, current Fighting Irish freshman guard Kayla McBride (Erie, Pa./Villa Maria Academy) started all five games for the gold medal-winning 2010 USA Women's U18 Americas Championship Team, while current Notre Dame freshman forward Natalie Achonwa (Guelph, Ontario/St. Mary's Catholic) suited up for Canada's Junior and Senior National Teams last summer and fall, most recently helping the Canadian Senior National Team to a 12th-place finish at the 2010 FIBA World Championships in the Czech Republic.
Other representatives of the Notre Dame women's basketball program to compete on the world stage include: Melissa Lechlitner, who struck gold with the 2007 Women's U19 World Championship Team (making Lechlitner the first South Bend-area female to earn a gold medal in international basketball competition and paving the way for Diggins' current gold rush), 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 Women's Senior National Team that won 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 two other former Fighting Irish All-Americans -- Gaither (two teams, two medals) and Morgan (four teams, three medals) -- also have suited up for Team USA. All told, Notre Dame players have earned 14 medals in international competition, including seven gold medals.
"We truly are looking forward to an incredible group of talent at the World University Games Team Trials," Donohoe said. "Many of these players have been involved with USA Basketball in the past, and those that are new to the process have experience at some of the country's best programs. It will be a tough task for the (USA Basketball Women's Junior National Team) committee to identify the 12-member team, and we look forward to seeing a lot of heart and hard work."
The World University Games are a multi-sport competition organized every other year by the International University Sports Federation (FISU). The U.S. women's basketball team will be comprised of U.S. citizens who are currently enrolled in college and have remaining eligibility.
USA Basketball women's teams have participated in 15 prior World University Games and collected a record seven gold medals, six silvers and one bronze medal. Since 1973, the first year the USA women competed in the WUGs, the United States has compiled an 89-15 (.856) overall record. In 2009, the USA posted a 7-0 slate en route to the gold medal.
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