July 20, 2009
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Notre Dame women's basketball incoming freshman guard Skylar Diggins (South Bend, Ind./Washington) has been chosen as a co-captain for the 2009 United States U19 World Championship Team, it was announced Monday by USA Basketball from the tournament's home in Bangkok, Thailand. Diggins and Stanford sophomore forward Nnemkadi Ogwumike, who also were teammates on the USA U18 National Team that struck gold at the FIBA U18 Americas Championship last summer in Argentina, were selected as the U19 squad's captains through a vote of their teammates.
"Being named one of the captains really means a lot," Diggins said. "I really wasn't expecting it. I was just going with the flow. It says a lot about what the team thinks about me and the role that I need to step up and take. That definitely flattered me. I was taken aback. I definitely need to take a leadership role, a bigger one than I thought. I'll definitely try to be a vocal leader. When I'm out on the court I'm going to make sure everybody's communicating, everybody's talking, and just try to keep us together."
Diggins and Ogwumike took the floor for the first time as the USA U19 National Team captains on Monday afternoon, helping to lead the Stars & Stripes to a dominating 86-46 victory over France in the first of two friendlies (exhibition games) for Team USA before the FIBA U19 World Championships get underway on Thursday.
Diggins started in the American backcourt for Monday's exhibition and was one of five players to score in double figures, finishing with 11 points (on 4-of-8 shooting) and five rebounds in 21 minutes of action.
The USA jumped out to an early 10-point lead, 14-4, with 3:18 to play in the first quarter and never looked back. By the end of the first stanza, the gap was 14 points, 20-6, as seven U.S. team members scored in the opening period. Just three minutes into the second quarter, the American women were up 31-8 and cruised to a 44-19 halftime lead. During the first half, the USA's defense held France to 6-of-33 (.182) shooting from the field.
The USA's lead continued to grow as the Americans outscored the French 18-11 in the third quarter and 24-16 in the fourth for the eventual 40-point victory.
"This was our first time together in a game," Diggins said. "Like every team, we have things we need to work on. We understand that and (Tuesday) we'll play a really good team in Australia. That's going to be good for us to measure where we're at and where we stand. (Tuesday) in practice we'll try to knock some things out, try to work on the kinks before we get started on the actual games."
The U.S. dominated the glass, owning a 61-27 rebounding advantage. However, the Americans, who forced 20 French turnovers, turned the ball over 21 times. The U.S. shot 48.4 percent (31-64 FGs) from the field, despite going 0-of-7 from 3-point, and forced France into shooting just 27.0 percent (17-63 FGs) of its field goal attempts.
"It's good to finally get a game under our belt," said USA and Northern Illinois University head coach (and former Notre Dame assistant) Carol Owens. "I think we needed that. We've been practicing twice a day in the States. To get here and try to get adjusted as soon as we can, I think this was good for us. You always want to know where you are at this point. It was not bad for our first friendly game, but we still have a ways to go. Our emphasis has to be on the defensive end and we need to continue to be focused on our defense throughout the tournament."
The United States will face Australia in its second friendly on Tuesday, then practice on Wednesday before tipping off the FIBA U19 World Championships on Thursday at 5:30 a.m. ET (4:30 p.m. local in Bangkok) against Spain. Team USA is the event's two-time defending gold medalist and was placed in Group D for preliminary round play, joining Spain, China and Mali. The Americans will face China on Friday (8:45 a.m. ET) and Mail on Saturday (8:45 a.m. ET) to complete Group D action.
After the round-robin group stage is complete, the top three teams in each of the four groups will advance to second-round pool play (two groups of six teams competing July 27-29), 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 on Aug. 2. All games will be played in two gyms within the Bangkok Thai-Japan Youth Center, with the full schedule available on the USA Basketball web site at www.usabasketball.com.
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.
NOTE: USA Basketball contributed to portions of this release.