Skylar Diggins’ standout career at Notre Dame comes to an end
There wasn’t a lot of consolation for senior point guard Skylar Diggins in the immediate aftermath of UConn’s 83-65 victory over fellow No. 1 seed Notre Dame in the national semifinals at New Orleans Arena.
UConn’s win ended the career of Diggins, a wildly popular figure in women’s basketball who led Notre Dame to a pair of title games and three consecutive Final Fours. Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw called Diggins the most important recruit in the history of the women’s basketball program.
Notre Dame was 130-20 with Diggins wearing the Irish uniform, and she leaves South Bend as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 2,537 points. She was also the first women’s player in school history to compile 2,000 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists. Not too shabby.
Diggins knows her sport’s history, and understands that some of women’s basketball’s best have not gotten an NCAA title, but still did some great things just the same.
“Obviously, you want to win a championship every year,” Diggins said. “But you learn so much in going through it. So many lessons. I am just blessed to have the opportunities these past four years. You look back on it, and [not winning a title] is not going to define my career or be my legacy. Notre Dame is so much bigger than myself. It’s about building the program back up to elite status, and this program is going to be good for years to come.”
Because of Diggins, Notre Dame was able to dominate UConn in a way no other team has since the Huskies won their first national championship in 1995. The Irish (35-2) won seven of eight meetings before losing Sunday night.
The loss ended an incredible season for Notre Dame and left Diggins without a national championship. She had accomplished nearly everything else at the school, including helping her Irish turn around their rivalry against the Huskies.
Diggins also brought a rock star quality to the Irish, with fans including Lil Wayne and more than 300,000 followers on Twitter by the time her career came to an end. She had the talent to go with it, too, as a two-time All-American.
In her first NCAA appearance as a freshman, she lost to Final Four-bound Oklahoma in overtime in the Sweet 16. Since then, it has been three Final Four trips and a level of celebrity and public recognition that no Notre Dame female athlete has ever reached before.
In 2011, Diggins helped Notre Dame to its first victory over Tennessee in the Elite Eight, and sent the Fighting Irish to the program’s third Final Four, and first since they won the title in 2001. Then in the national semifinals, Notre Dame beat UConn, but fell to Texas A&M in the finals.
In 2012, the Irish beat UConn three times, including once again in the national semifinals. But Baylor took the title, beating Notre Dame 80-61 in the final.
What’s next for Diggins? While her Irish career is over, the WNBA awaits. The draft is April 15, and Diggins is expected to go with the second pick to Chicago or the third pick to Tulsa.