For the first time in the 36-year history of the Notre Dame women’s basketball program, the Fighting Irish have placed two players on the prestigious Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Coaches’ All-America Team, it was announced Saturday afternoon at New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, La.
Senior guard/co-captain Skylar Diggins (South Bend, Ind./Washington) earned a spot on the elite 10-player team for the third consecutive season, while junior guard Kayla McBride (Erie, Pa./Villa Maria Academy) was chosen for the first time in her career.
Diggins is the only player in program history to be selected multiple times for the WBCA Coaches’ All-America Team, while McBride joins Diggins, Ruth Riley (2001) and Jacqueline Batteast (2005) as Notre Dame cagers who have received the accolade.
With Saturday’s award, Diggins is assured of being the first Fighting Irish women’s basketball player to be a two-time consensus first-team All-America selection, as well as the first four-time All-American in program history — both Riley (1999-2001) and Batteast (2002, 2004-05) were three-time selections, with Riley the only other Notre Dame women’s basketball player to be a consensus first-team All-America choice (2001).
At the same time, Diggins is just the 10th Notre Dame basketball player of either gender to be a consensus first-team All-American, and the seventh Fighting Irish basketball player to pull off that feat more than once (second in past 37 years after Troy Murphy in 2000 and 2001). The only other Notre Dame men’s players who earned consensus first-team All-America honors in multiple seasons were Edward “Moose” Krause (1932-34), John Moir (1936-38), Paul Nowak (1936-38), Leo Klier (1944 and 1946) and Adrian Dantley (1975-76).
Diggins and McBride were among 10 players selected from a group of 52 finalists for this year’s WBCA Coaches’ All-America Team, with those players not chosen for the final squad earning honorable mention status. Among this year’s honorable mention All-America selections was Notre Dame junior forward Natalie Achonwa (Guelph, Ontario/St. Mary’s Catholic), who earned that distinction for the first time in her career.
This marks the third year in a row and fifth time in program history Notre Dame has fielded three All-Americans in the same season, having previously done so in 2000, 2001, 2011 and 2012. All told, the Fighting Irish have had 15 players chosen for All-America honors at least once in their careers.
Having already earned the Nancy Lieberman Award for the second consecutive season (honoring the nation’s top point guard), Diggins is a finalist for every major national player-of-the-year award in 2012-13, remaining under consideration for the State Farm Wade Trophy, Naismith Trophy, John R. Wooden Award and United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Player of the Year honors. She also is the two-time reigning BIG EAST Conference Player of the Year and a three-time unanimous first-team all-BIG EAST selection.
Diggins has started all 36 games this season and leads the BIG EAST in assists (6.0 apg.), while ranking fourth in scoring (17.3 ppg.) and third in steals (3.1 spg.; school-record 110 steals overall) and fourth in free throw percentage (.810). She also is among the conference’s best in three-point percentage (5th - .371) and assist/turnover ratio (6th - 1.68), and she leads the team with 33 double-figure scoring games (giving her a school-record 120 for her career, four more than the previous Notre Dame record held by current Fighting Irish associate coach Beth (Morgan) Cunningham from 1993-97).
For her career, Diggins is Notre Dame’s all-time leader in points (2,347), steals (377), games started (143) and minutes played (4,601), in addition to her mark for career double-figure scoring games. She also ranks second with 737 career assists (41 behind Mary Gavin’s mark set from 1984-88) and 149 games played (two behind Brittany Mallory’s record set last year).
Like Diggins, McBride was a first-team all-BIG EAST selection, while also garnering Most Valuable Player honors at the BIG EAST Championship and a spot on the NCAA Norfolk Regional All-Tournament Team. What’s more, she was a midseason candidate for both the Naismith Trophy and Wooden Award.
McBride has appeared in all 36 games (starting 35) for the Fighting Irish this season, ranking seventh in the BIG EAST in scoring (career-high 15.9 ppg.), while leading the conference with a career-best .906 free throw percentage. She also has scored in double figures 31 times this season and stands second on the team with seven 20-point games, including six in the past 10 games and a career-high 28 points on March 26 in an NCAA Championship second-round win at Iowa.
In her first season as an everyday starter for Notre Dame, Achonwa joins Diggins as the only Fighting Irish player to crack the lineup for all 36 games. She ranks third on the team (16th in the BIG EAST) in scoring (13.9 ppg.) and second in the BIG EAST in rebounding (9.6 rpg.), posting career highs in both categories. She also is among the conference leaders in field goal percentage (8th - .523; also 22nd nationally) and free throw percentage (9th - .793).
Achonwa’s biggest feat has been her school-record (and BIG EAST-best) 19 double-doubles this season, including eight against ranked opponents, after she had just one double-double in her career prior to this year. She also has scored at least 20 points in six games after having one 20-point game in her career before the 2012-13 campaign.
No. 2 Notre Dame (35-1) will take on No. 3 Connecticut for the fourth time this season when the two schools square off in a national semifinal game at the NCAA Women’s Final Four at approximately 8 p.m. CT (9 p.m. ET) Sunday at New Orleans Arena.
The third national semifinal clash between the Fighting Irish and Huskies in as many years (and fourth all-time) will be televised live to a national cable audience on ESPN and ESPNHD, with additional coverage on-line at ESPN3/WatchESPN.