TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Skylar Diggins likes that WNBA teams may now dread a trip to Tulsa.
The star guard at Notre Dame and No. 3 pick in the draft is expected to make an immediate impact on a Tulsa team that finished 9-25 last season.
That makes Diggins smile.
“I like that,” Diggins said. “Our attitude is we can beat you. I don’t mind the underdog role at all.”
If her on-court performance lives up to the buzz generated by her arrival, opponents will have to up their game against Tulsa. Diggins will join Candice Wiggins for a speedy Shock backcourt that can shoot the 3-pointer.
“This is a dream come true for me,” said Diggins at her introductory press conference with Wiggins. “We have the opportunity to do some big things.”
The do-everything Diggins averaged 17.1 points, 6.1 assists and 3.1 steals while helping the Irish reach the Final Four the past three seasons.
“People want to see her play,” Tulsa President Steve Swetoha said. “She is a competitor, a hard worker. She refused to lose. She is quickly becoming the face of our program.”
Diggins has over 380,000 Twitter followers, and the Shock hope they’ll follow the team.
“I’m the same girl I was when I only had 1,000 followers,” Diggins said. “Whatever popularity I have culminated over the years, I will use for the greater good of Tulsa.”
That may result in more season ticket sales, which is good news for Swetoha. The team lost 6-foot-8 Elizabeth Cambage of Australia, who declined to return to the Shock following her rookie season. But they’ve gained forward Nicole Powell in a trade with the New York Liberty and Wiggins from Minnesota this season.
(Diggins’) social media experience is well-documented and becoming the first female athlete to sign with (rapper turned sports agent) Jay Z,” Swetoha said. “But basketball is first. That’s why we drafted her.”
Diggins is the only player in Notre Dame history to eclipse 2,000 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists and 300 steals. The Shock executives hope the two-time Big East player of the year can improve their program like she did in South Bend, Ind., when the Irish went 129-20 during her career.
She also made Notre Dame competitive against its national rivals. The Irish were 4-28 against Connecticut before Diggins, but won six of their last eight games against the Huskies. That included wins in 2011 and 2012 that led to the NCAA championship game.
“I always felt like this could be the missing piece to get us to next level,” said Tulsa coach Gary Kloppenburg. “A point guard with her toughness and leadership ability thrown into a young, building team, it’s going to be exciting.”
Wiggins said she’s looking forward to playing with Diggins and improving together.
“I’ve watched Skylar since her freshman year at Notre Dame,” Wiggins said. “There are a lot of dimensions to her game that will make me better. Our games are so complementary of one another, I think we will elevate each other’s play. Skylar elevates everyone’s play around her.”
The Shock opens training camp on Sunday. The WNBA’s 17th season begins on May 24.