Oct. 10, 2011
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - For the second time this preseason, three Notre Dame women's basketball players -- junior guard Skylar Diggins (South Bend, Ind./Washington), senior guard Natalie Novosel (Lexington, Ky./Lexington Catholic) and fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters (Chicago, Ill./Fenwick) -- have received recognition on a national player of the year award watch list, as the trio are among a group of 30 players chosen for the 2011-12 preseason candidate list for the John R. Wooden Women's Award, it was announced Tuesday by the Los Angeles Athletic Club, the award's organizer and host of its annual awards presentation.
The Wooden Award, named for the late legendary UCLA men's basketball coach, is presented annually to the nation's top collegiate women's basketball player who also best exemplifies the term "student-athlete." Diggins, Novosel and Peters were named preseason candidates for this year's Wooden Award on the basis of their on-court performance last year, as well as their team's success.
With this year's selections, the Fighting Irish now have had eight players named to the Wooden Award candidate list in the past nine seasons, including five in the past five years. Diggins is on the Wooden Award preseason chart for the second consecutive season, while Novosel and Peters are making their first appearance on the list. Notre Dame is one of just two schools in the country (along with fellow BIG EAST Conference member Connecticut) to have three players named to this year's Wooden Award Top 30 list, while the BIG EAST dominated this year's candidate rundown with nine selections -- the ACC was next with six, while the Big 12 had four, and the SEC and Big Ten had three each (no other conference fielded more than two).
Back in August, Diggins, Novosel and Peters were among a group of 25 players named to the preseason "Wade Watch" list for the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA)/State Farm Wade Trophy, also presented annually to the nation's top collegiate women's basketball player. The Fighting Irish trio (who helped the United States win the gold medal and post a 6-0 record at the 2011 World University Games in Shenzhen, China) also have been tapped as 2011-12 preseason All-Americans in college basketball preview issues by a variety of publications, including The Sporting News (Diggins-first team; Novosel-second team; Peters-third team) and Athlon Sports (Diggins-first team).
In December, the Wooden Award will release its Midseason Top 20 List, followed in March by the official national ballot that lists approximately 20 players. In order to be considered for the national ballot, a player must be certified by her school as having met the award's requirements, which include making progress toward her degree and maintaining a minimum 2.0 grade-point average (GPA). The Wooden Award All-America Team (consisting of the nation's top 10 players) will be announced during the week prior to the NCAA Women's Final Four (scheduled for April 1-3 in Denver), with the presentation of the Wooden Award All-America Team and the 2012 Wooden Award recipient taking place during a weekend celebration April 9-11 in Los Angeles.
Diggins put together one of the finest sophomore seasons in Notre Dame women's basketball history in 2010-11 while sparking the Fighting Irish to their second NCAA title game berth and third NCAA Women's Final Four appearance. The crafty southpaw made a nearly-seamless transition to the point guard position, 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 were 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 were 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 last 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 (Wooden Award, Wade Trophy, 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.
Meanwhile, Novosel was easily one of the nation's most improved players in 2010-11, nabbing State Farm Coaches' honorable mention All-America and first-team all-BIG EAST laurels, as well as the BIG EAST's Most Improved Player award, after more than tripling her scoring average from a year ago from 5.0 points to a team-high 15.1 points per game. She also scored 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 doubled her combined total of 17 from her first two years. What's more, Novosel 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.).
Peters also 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.). Furthermore, she 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). As if that weren't enough, she was one of just two players in the nation to record at least 60 blocks and 60 steals last season (she had 68 blocks and 66 steals), joining Illinois' Karisma Penn (78/62) in that select company.
Like Novosel, Peters was named a State Farm Coaches' honorable mention All-America and first-team all-BIG EAST selection in 2010-11, 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.
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 @notredamewbb) or register for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the pulldown menus on the women's basketball page at UND.com.