Notre Dame Women's Basketball: Diggins legacy comes full circle in Ring of Honor

Curt Rallo
South Bend Tribune

It’s a ceremony that will last a few minutes.

It’s a legacy that will last as long as white banners trimmed in blue and gold fly over a Notre Dame basketball court.

Four-time All-American Skylar Diggins, the South Bend Washington High School product who helped lead the Notre Dame women’s basketball team to an unprecedented run of three consecutive Final Fours, will be inducted into the Irish basketball Ring of Honor before Saturday’s 2 p.m. EST tip-off for the No. 6 Irish (2-0) and Valparaiso (0-2).

Pulse FM (96.9, 92.1) has the broadcast. Fans should be in their seats by 1:30 p.m. for the Ring of Honor ceremony.

Diggins ended her Notre Dame career last season. She owns Notre Dame’s record for career points (2,357), steals (381), games started (144) and double-figure scoring games (121), among others. She is the only Notre Dame player (men’s or women’s) to have 2,000 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists and 300 steals in a career.

“My teammates used to joke about it last season,” Diggins said about being inducted into the Ring of Honor. “They’d be like, ‘You’ll be up there, Sky. You’ll be in the Ring of Honor.’ I never put much thought into it. Just being able to play for Notre Dame — being a part of it — playing for coach (Muffet) McGraw, that was enough for me. Three Finals Fours, that was enough for me. Big East championship, that was enough for me.

“I was speechless at the moment I found out, but after I was able to reflect a little bit and give it some thought, you come to the realization that I’m going to be in that gym forever, as long as that gym stands.

“I think that all of the players, men or women’s basketball players, and we’ve had a ton of All-Americans, we’ve had a ton of players who played at the next level, and only (four) other names are up there (in the Ring of Honor). I think that tells you how big of a deal it is. I put all of that into perspective. Words can’t really describe how grateful I am.”

Diggins said that her induction into the Ring of Honor is a community honor.

“Everything I do, I’m a reflection of South Bend,” Diggins said. “I’m a product of South Bend. I’m an inner-city kid. Growing up in a community that helped raised me and supported me throughout my career, since I was young, the support has been amazing.

“Anytime I do something, I think about that. I’m so proud to be from the city of South Bend, and I’m so happy to have been able to play for my hometown. Every time I go out onto the court, I try to make my family proud, and make the city of South Bend proud.”

“I always wanted my legacy at Notre Dame to be one of a player who put everything on the line for her coaches and her teammates,” Diggins said. “I wanted my legacy to be one of a person who cared dearly about the university and the people who were there, the city of South Bend, everyone there and around it, and her family — first and foremost — and who carried around all of those things with her, and who tried her best to make all those things proud, and someone who was a fierce competitor, and a genuine and honest person. I think everybody who knows me, would know me for that.”

After wrapping up her first WNBA season with the Tulsa Shock, Diggins returned to South Bend.

“I went to the (Notre Dame women’s basketball) exhibition game, and it was so weird being back,” Diggins said. “I felt like I was on the outside looking in, but I still tried to sideline coach.

“I still want to try and be a part of the program this year, seeing something that I was a part of, helping build the program back up to a championship level.

“I definitely still want to be invested in the program and still try to come around, whether I get to catch a practice every few weeks, or maybe I get to join a practice every few weeks. I stay in touch with the girls.

“The program is obviously near and dear to my heart. I will always try to be involved as much as I can.”

Diggins, known for a steely look and a fierce demeanor on the court, said that Saturday’s ceremony could be emotional.

“I didn’t think I would cry after we beat UConn in my last game at home, but I busted out crying,” Diggins said of the dramatic three-overtime victory over the eventual national champion Huskies. “I was in tears.

“I’m just going to let the moment happen organically and naturally on Saturday. I’m sure it’s going to be emotional, but I think at the same time, it’s a celebration.

That place, being Notre Dame, and those people that are going to be there, who have always been there, I think the story itself can bring tears to people’s eyes. If I do get emotional, I’m sure I won’t be the only one.”

Former Notre Dame women's basketball star Skylar Diggins will be honored prior to Saturday's game against Valparaiso. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN