Spotlight Shines On Notre Dame's Diggins

By Michael Bonner, Reporter

Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw watches as Skylar Diggins shoots during practice for a first-round game in the women's NCAA college basketball tournament in Iowa City, Iowa Saturday, March 23, 2013. Notre Dame plays Tennessee-Martin on Sunday. (AP Photo/Justin Hayworth)


By Grant Burkhardt

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Through a door, a right turn through the lounge, a left turn through bathroom stalls and yet another left, cornered in dim lighting sat Skylar Diggins.

The Notre Dame women’s basketball team invaded the Iowa women’s volleyball locker room. They called it home through the duration of their stay in Iowa City during the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

Three media members stood in front of the two-time All-American. One asked her about Iowa.

“The city of Iowa?” Diggins asked.

“Oh the team,” Diggins said in realization of the question’s target. A simple slip, which everyone acknowledged just as that, but the Notre Dame senior knows better. Even deep through the twist and turns of the skeleton of Carver-Hawkeye Arena, nothing is ever that simple. She had to clear one more thing up, “I mean the state, excuse me. I didn’t mean the city, I meant the state of Iowa.”

She knows that the country’s eyes shine on her through a microscopic lens, whether on ESPN or hidden in a locker usually housed by a Hawkeye freshman right side hitter. The NBA has Jerry West on its logo, if women’s college basketball wanted one, it’d be Diggins.

Don’t think so?

“I think she’s the face of women’s college basketball,” Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said.

An hour later, sitting in the same seat as McGraw, Iowa’s head coach Lisa Bluder echoed the sentiments.

“She’s been the face of women’s basketball this year.”

Her contemporaries took it a step further. Both Morgan Johnson and Melissa Dixon called Diggins an “icon.”

Dixon is one of Diggins’ 313,088 (as of Monday afternoon) Twitter followers, more than any college athlete, man or woman. Some flocked to Carver-Hawkeye Arena Sunday just to get a glimpse, then capture the moment in their cell phone.

At one point Diggins sat down at half court, stretched her legs and back, yet her posse of fan followed. More than a dozen fans, including those in black and gold, had their arms extended watching her through the camera on their cell phones.

“ Just getting my team out there, whatever’s good for Notre Dame is good for me,” Diggins said. “And I love promoting the team and it’s great for us to get that positive coverage.”

The coverage peaked when her favorite rapper Lil Wayne walked on stage in Bloomington, Ind., donning a No. 4 Notre Dame women’s jersey in April of 2011. The CEO of Young Money also tweeted at Notre Dame’s star prior to the team’s national title game, “Kongrats to @skydigg4, my wife. Now bring it home baby.”

The compliment touched Diggins closer than some others. Music and basketball walked hand and hand for the Irish guard growing up. Her dad was a disc jockey for sock hops and dances.

“He had his DJ things in the basement when I was 11 or 12. I used to play with it when I wasn’t supposed to,” Diggins said. “I ended up getting good at it so I started sock hops and dances and birthday parties and was asked to do weddings. It just blew up from there.”

Diggins currently takes a piano class at Notre Dame. She used to be able to play all four stringed instruments—the cello, violin, double bass and viola – before focusing strictly on basketball.

“Music is a rhythm. I think it’s the same in sports. A lot of athletes go to music to calm them or what have you and get them prepared or ready,” Diggins said. “I just found a love of music. It just reminded me of basketball. It’s a rhythm thing. It’s about a mood, you know what I mean. I think it just has a calming effect.”

It’s a calm she almost always displays.

Back in the same locker, a new group of reporters fire questions at the star. As Diggins answers, she straps on her ankle brace, slips on her navy and gold Adidas sneakers and slips on her practice jersey.

Other athletes may have been star struck, or could only focus on the question. Diggins completed both tasks seamlessly.

On the court it’s no different, but for Diggins, her role extends more than making shots and racking up assists. For an icon like Diggins, beside her height and year, there should be one more attribute, college basketball ambassador.

“She’s embraced that role of being that star power for women’s basketball this year,” Bluder said. “I think she has more security here than Barack Obama when he comes, and that’s OK for us, because we need somebody like that in women’s basketball.”

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