“I watched (Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey) when she was here,” Diggins said. “I’ve been watching Notre Dame for 10 or 11 years. I remember when Notre Dame players were at the elementary schools.”
Washington compiled a 102-7 record in Diggins’ four seasons. The Panthers reached the state championship game four times with No. 4 leading the way. She led the Panthers to the 2007 state crown, and ended her career with 2,790 points.
Wednesday’s visit to Washington was part of a community outreach by Notre Dame. Admission to the open practice was a children’s book.
More than 1,000 books were collected and will be donated to South Bend-area primary schools Muessel, Coquillard, Marquette and Perley through the South Bend Public Education Foundation.
Better World Books, an organization founded by three friends from Notre Dame, will match the collected books total. Better World Books collects and sells books online to fund literacy initiatives worldwide.
Diggins, a sophomore who led Notre Dame in scoring last season with 13.8 points a game, signed autographs with her teammates for a lengthy line of fans after the intense practice session.
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said Diggins’ presence on the court in Irish colors is a victory for the South Bend’s West Side.
“I think it’s great when you see somebody like Skylar coming out of Washington High School and looking at Stanford and Notre Dame as two of her college choices. I think that’s an outstanding thing for the whole school, for everybody to be proud of. We want everybody at Washington to have those kind of choices when they graduate, and in order to do that, they need to start at a younger age and get the academics they need.
“Skylar symbolizes what this is,” McGraw said of the event. “I’m so proud of this team, because they’ve done everything they’ve had to do as a student, as an athlete, and as a citizen of the community. They’re so willing to give back, and they want to give back, and they’re such great role models for these young kids who are out here today.”
Marilyn Coddens’ Diggins state championship coach at Washington, said the event was particularly meaningful to Washington High School.
“This is such a mind-boggling thing for the University of Notre Dame to let Skylar come back to her high school to have a practice for the community,” Coddens said. “It’s just heart-warming how the university is reaching out to the community. It says a lot about coach McGraw and her coaching staff and the fact that she knows how important it is for everybody to see Skylar as much as they can.”
Diggins basked in the limelight as the returning hero.
“It was great to be back home,” Diggins said. “I see a lot of familiar faces, a lot of people who have been supporting me since the ninth grade. It’s exciting to see some old coaches, and (Washington principal) George McCullough. The West Side Pride came out to support us.”
Notre Dame will sport new uniforms. The home uniforms will be white with blue and gold lettering and trim. The Razorback-style uniforms will have Irish emblazoned on the chest in Celtic script.
“We have a whole new wardrobe, and it’s beautiful,” Irish junior Natalie Novosel said. “We couldn’t have asked for anything more. It just goes with the whole new arena, the renovation. We look good. Now we have to put our game in action.
“Even the practice jerseys are 10 pounds lighter,” Novosel added. “It makes a difference when we’re guarding people. When we get competitive, it’s hard when you’re drenched in sweat. It’s just awful.”
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