Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

WNBA Report: Skylar Soaring in Second Year As a Pro

By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)

WASHINGTON –
Superstar Skylar Diggins wasn’t pleased.

For one of the few times in her basketball life, the 5 foot, 9 inch Tulsa Shock guard faced adversity.

There was no furrowed brow or squint in her eyes as she reflected on her tough rookie season during an extensive discussion following Tulsa’s practice Wednesday night at the Verizon Center. Instead, Diggins’ peaceful facial façade told a different story.

Confidently speaking in a matter-of-fact tone, Diggins’ difficulties were a humorous memory.

“Last year, I’d be the first to tell you that I wasn’t happy with the product I put on the floor,” Diggins said. “I think that I am the hardest on myself. Nobody can place any greater expectations on me than I already have on myself.”

Diggins kept the most important off-season appointments a secret from her half-million Twitter followers.

A client of Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports management division, Diggins’ busy offseason schedule gave her detractors plenty of ammunition to question her commitment to improving as a player.

Diggins ignored the excessive noise and silenced her bleacher critics by working harder than ever while simultaneously building her brand.

“People are going to say what they want to say,” Diggins said. “I think the great thing about me is I have a strong inner circle that keeps me grounded and focused.

"Everybody has an opinion and now some of the things I saw from those same people, they’re saying the exact opposite. It’s funny how people flip-flop.”

Diggins appeared in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue and in Vogue magazine.

She consistently traveled across the country, making red-carpet appearances, signing autographs and conducting clinics.

Even with her demanding schedule, the humble Diggins wasn’t blinded by her celebrity status, which kept her grounded.

“If you followed my social media, you probably would’ve thought otherwise because I didn’t really post a lot of when I was in the gym playing basketball,” Diggins said. “A lot of people were asking how I have the time to do everything that I do. They were even asking, ‘do you play basketball?’

"It was the opposite. Very quietly I was putting in my work. I wanted to get back to that. I fell in love with the game again.”

The solitude along with the soothing sounds of sneaker squeaking traffic was the perfect tonic for Diggins to regain her swag.

“I had the blinders on during the offseason,” Diggins said. “I was always in the gym whether I was in L.A., New York or Indiana. I always found a gym. I really tried to be adamant about the work I put in and I moved with a purpose.

"I was doing a lot of traveling and other things off the court to build my brand, but I scheduled everything around my workouts. I was focused on my basketball grind. I put in a lot of work in to make sure I got better and I accomplished that mission.”

The hard work has yielded terrific results for Diggins, who is demolishing opponents.

The Notre Dame All-American, who shined with 27 points last week in her first career All-Star game, is second in the league in scoring (21.4 points per game) and fourth in assists (5.3).

A mentally stronger and more assertive Diggins has scored 20 or more points 17 times this season.

A human firecracker and highlight waiting to happen, Diggins scored a career high 34 points against San Antonio in a 95-93 loss earlier this week. She also scored 33 points earlier this year against Chicago.

She has reached double figures in 24 of Tulsa’s 25 games after scoring a team-high19 points Friday night during an 82-77 setback to the Washington Mystics.

For those who didn’t think basketball mattered to Diggins, they should’ve witnessed her reddened and moist eyes while she discussed another tough defeat to a gaggle of media members in a postgame interview in the Shock’s silent locker room following the Mystics game Friday night.

Diggins is in the process of detonating the Shock single-season record book.

She is close to breaking a few of Deanna Nolan’s team records when the franchise existed in the glory days of Detroit. She has scored 535 points this season. Diggins is 25 points and 18 assists away from becoming the Shock’s single-season leader in those categories.

“(The critics) must have thought I was broken last year,” Diggins said. “I don’t think I was broken, I just thought I had a rookie season. I knew this year would be better. I am happy with where I am individually this year. I still have a lot of growing to do as well as my team.”

Diggins is the unquestioned leader of a talented Tulsa team.

In addition to Diggins, third-year center and two-time All-Star Glory Johnson along with rookie guard Odyssey Sims, who dropped a career-high 39 points Tuesday night in San Antonio, are great building blocks for first-year head coach Fred Williams.
Courtney Paris also has 10 double-doubles this season.

Despite losing 10 of their 12 last games, the Shock (8-17 overall) still believes they will earn a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Tulsa starts a critical four-game home stand Sunday against Chicago at 3:30 p.m. The Shock trail the Los Angeles Sparks by 2.5 games for the No. 4 seed.

Another example of Diggins’ leadership occurred during practice.

While sitting on the floor, Diggins consistently encouraged guard Angel Goodrich, who was going through a difficult drill in which she was sprinting from sideline-to-sideline, hitting large red bags resembling tackling dummies and stopping to pull-up in the lane to hit a 13-foot jumpers.

Goodrich, a 5-4 guard out of Kansas, averages 6.7 minutes and 0.9 points per game for the Shock. It didn’t matter to Diggins, who clapped and cheered loudly, each time she made a basket.

“I am fortunate to be part of a young team that’s growing and with a coaching staff that’s passionate and positive,” Diggins said. “They’re just a blessing to be around. My goal is to get better and do my part on this Tulsa Shock team. I want to be a better individual and teammate.”

Diggins’ impact goes beyond the basketball court.

Recently, Diggins was featured in a New York Times article in which she gave beauty tips and in O magazine discussing calf-exercises one can do while in the shower.

Diggins is a model for a new line of Nike sports bras.

She also had role on the hit MTV series “Wild ‘N Out” opposite Nick Cannon. Of course, Diggins recently made a memorable ESPY’s appearance in which she kissed Drake on the forehead.

“The ESPYs is the biggest sports stage so I thought it was great to represent my brand, my family, the Tulsa Shock and WNBA,” Diggins said. “To be able to do that and be on stage was fun. I thought it was a great moment and everybody got a laugh out of it. That entire week was great for me and a blessing. I got to participate in my first all-star weekend as a player. It was amazing and I had a great time doing that.”

Diggins is major attraction in opposing arenas.

During Friday’s game against the Mystics, many little girls paraded around sporting Diggins’ black No. 4 jersey and her trademark headbands.

She has the second-highest selling jersey in the league behind Atlanta rookie Shoni Schimmel.

With a major AAU tournament in town at Convention Center, Diggins made it a priority to make an appearance at the showcase especially since she sponsors the Sky Digg Elite team.

“For me it’s important, that I am always myself,” Diggins said. “With that, I carry around my family. I am very passionate and dedicated to the things that are in my life such as basketball, my family and children. I want to be remembered as someone who always did good, had great character, cared about her family and somebody who stuck to her values.

"I have so many things that I want to do. I just want to make the world a better place.”

When asked to elaborate on her future plans, Diggins smiled and guarded her thoughts the way she locks down defenders.

“I can’t share all my plans,” a grinning Diggins said. “I am full of surprises, but there are great things ahead. I am excited for the future. I am with Roc Nation, the best management company in the world. They’re great at what they do and they keep opportunities coming my way. As long as I do my part and produce, they will do their job. We’re just getting started.”

Just like her journey to greatness is beginning.





- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

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Awesome as always Rob! Really gave me some insight into a great player. Keep up the good writing.

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