Former ND stars Skylar Diggins, Jewell Loyd named to U.S. Olympic women's basketball team
SOUTH BEND — South Bend-born and raised Skylar Diggins-Smith and her former Notre Dame teammate, Jewell Loyd, were each named Monday to the 12-player U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team that will compete next month in Tokyo.
With their selections, the two guards tripled the all-time representation among former Irish women’s players, joining 2004 Olympian Ruth Riley.
The uber-decorated Diggins-Smith was one of 25 finalists for the team in 2016, but was coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered the previous summer and did not return to game action until the following May, about four weeks after the team was announced.
Diggins-Smith, 30, has called representing her country in the Olympics a “once in a lifetime opportunity,” but she also recently expressed being more at peace if such a chance didn’t come to be.
“I am who I am, I am who I’m going to be,” Smith-Diggins told The Next @ The IX for a story published 12 days ago. “I think when you just put the work in and you just focus on the process — wanting to get better every day, wanting to improve my game, wanting to win a championship in the WNBA, wanting to be better for my teammates — I feel very confident in my game and doing whatever I need to do for whatever team. But if I don’t make the (Olympic) team, that’s not the end-all, be-all for me anymore.”
At long last, it doesn’t matter anymore.
Diggins-Smith already owns a long history of representing USA Basketball in competitions other than the Olympics, including most recently helping the U.S. national team go 11-1 in exhibitions against college teams from November 2019 to February 2020.
She was a member of squads that won gold medals in international competitions four times from 2008 to 2012 and owns a 47-2 record all-time while competing for USA Basketball.
Loyd, originally from Lincolnwood, Ill., arrived at Notre Dame in 2012, just as Diggins-Smith was beginning her senior season for the Irish.
Loyd, 27, helped the U.S. to first place in the 2018 FIBA World Cup, her third international gold medal, and owns a 29-2 record in games logged for USA Basketball.
She played a leading role in Seattle capturing its second WNBA title in three years last October and has helped key the Storm to the league’s best record so far this season at 12-2.
Loyd’s averaging 18.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists for Seattle in 2021, and is set to be joined by two of her Storm teammates — fifth-time Olympian Sue Bird and second-timer Breanna Stewart — at the Tokyo Games.
Diggins-Smith is in a similar situation, as three players from the Phoenix Mercury were selected as well, including fifth-timer Diana Taurasi and second-timer Brittney Griner.
Diggins-Smith ranks seventh in scoring (19.2) and sixth in assists (5.5) in the WNBA this season along with 4.2 rebounds for the 6-7 Mercury.
She returned to the league in 2020 after having a baby in April 2019 and sitting out that season.
Others named to the Olympic team Monday included first-timers Ariel Atkins of Washington, Napheesa Collier of Minnesota, and the Las Vegas pair of Chelsea Gray and reigning league MVP A’ja Wilson.
Also selected were fourth-timer Sylvia Fowles of Minnesota and third-timer Tina Charles of Washington.
Wilson played collegiately at South Carolina for Dawn Staley, who is serving her inaugural turn as Olympic coach after Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma guided the United States in 2012 and 2016.
2020 U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team
Ariel Atkins (Washington Mystics)
Sue Bird (Seattle Storm)
Tina Charles (Washington Mystics)
Napheesa Collier (Minnesota Lynx)
Skylar Diggins-Smith (Phoenix Mercury)
Sylvia Fowles (Minnesota Lynx)
Chelsea Gray (Las Vegas Aces)
Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury)
Jewell Loyd (Seattle Storm)
Breanna Stewart (Seattle Storm)
Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury)
A’ja Wilson (Las Vegas Aces)
Head Coach: Dawn Staley, University of South Carolina
Assistant Coach: Dan Hughes
Assistant Coach: Cheryl Reeve, Minnesota Lynx
Assistant Coach: Jennifer Rizzotti, Connecticut Sun
The U.S. is seeking its seventh straight gold medal in women’s basketball and ninth over the last 10 Olympics, the lone exception being a bronze in 1992.
Riley played center for the 2004 gold medal team.
That was after she led Notre Dame to its first NCAA national title in 2001. Riley left the Irish as the program’s No. 2 scorer and No. 1 rebounder all-time to go with several other standards.
Diggins-Smith, playing from 2009 to 2013, proceeded to become ND’s all-time scoring leader in addition to setting or tying at least 31 other school records.
She led the Irish to three Final Fours, including the 2011 and 2012 title games, on her way to four-time All-American and two-time Big East Player of the Year honors.
Diggins-Smith blasted onto the national scene while at South Bend Washington.
She led the Panthers to four straight Class 4A state title games, including claiming the championship in her 2007 sophomore season, and was named the nation’s top prep player by both Naismith and Gatorade.
Loyd played just three years at Notre Dame before entering the 2015 draft and being selected No. 1 overall, yet still departed the Irish as their No. 5 career scorer. The two-time All-American was named national player of the year by ESPN in 2015 and national freshman of the year by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association in 2013.
The U.S., assigned to Group B, is scheduled to play its Olympic opener July 27 against Nigeria. That’s followed by group matchups against Japan on July 30 and France on Aug. 2 — Diggins-Smith’s 31st birthday.
Quarterfinals are planned for Aug. 3-4, semifinals Aug. 6 and the medal games Aug. 7.