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.

Friday, June 10, 2016

WNBA Notebook: Catching Up With Skylar Diggins

By Rob Knox @knoxrob1

ARLINGTON, Texas – Skylar Diggins jab-stepped to left and then went to the right, took four dribbles and swished a 13-foot shot from the right wing. 

 She repeated that several times as worked up a serious sweat during pregame warmups  Wednesday night at the College Park Center before the Dallas Wings dropped an 87-79 decision to the Washington Mystics.

 The Notre Dame graduate, sporting red sneakers, laughed with teammates, dribbled, worked on her lateral movement and continued her comeback from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered last June 28 in a game against Seattle.

 Diggins has appeared in one game this season. She played 12 minutes on May 21 against San Antonio. 

 Fans are wondering when they’ll see Diggins in games consistently. Officially, according to the Wings, Diggins’ status is day-to-day. 

She could see action as early as Saturday night when the Wings host Candace Parker and the undefeated Los Angeles Sparks at 8:30 p.m. Eastern time. 

 When asked if she knew when she would play or if there was a timetable for her return she wanted to share, Diggins was succinct and polite.

 “No,” she said with a smile as she held a delicious chicken wrap in her hands in the Wings’ locker room. “(The knee) is getting there.”

 A burning furnace of energy, Diggins would much rather be on the court playing, but she understands the decision not to rush her back until she’s fully 100 percent. She signed a contract extension in March, which will keep her in Dallas until at least 2019.

 Diggins expanded on what’s been the most difficult of the process of returning. 

 “Patience,” Diggins said. “Not a lot of athletes have that so I am just surrendering to the process. I would give anything to be out there with my teammates and that’s probably the most frustrating part.” 

 Diggins looked sharp while working with assistant coach Bridget Pettis. She rained in jumpers from all over the floor, drove to the basket, hit a flurry of pull-ups from the foul line. While that work was what the public saw, the real labor occurred away from public view as Diggins endured arduous and grueling rehab sessions. 

 “Being able to walk took a long time,” Diggins said. “It’s just a tedious, long process that you have to surrender to. You have to trust your doctors, trainers, athletic strength and conditioning coaches and just continue to work at it. 

"It’s a marathon and not a sprint. Sometimes you want it all at once. I have a lot of support here from my family, friends, teammates, coaches and doctors. It just goes on and on. I am just staying with the process.”

 Already fanatical about their Wings, once Diggins return, the fans will go berserk. The Dallas Wings relocated from Tulsa during the offseason, which was tough because Tulsa supported its team. The Wings players have been delighted that some of their fans from Tulsa have made the regular drive to Arlington to continue supporting them.

 “It’s amazing and we have a ton of support here,” second year guard Brianna Kiesel said. “When we learned we were moving, I think everyone had an open mind.

"Tulsa was great for us and we had a ton of support there. Coming here, we have a new facility, but it’s the same people and that’s big for us. The support here has been next to none. This is a nice place to play and you can hear the crowd, which is big. It’s always a good time.”  

 It’s been a perfect match made in heaven as Dallas has been an awesome market for a WNBA franchise. The fans have been supportive and they have an exciting young team to support. Eight of Dallas’ 12 players have been in the league four years or less. 

 Playing in the state-of-the-art College Park Center on the UT-Arlington campus is a perfect venue for a WNBA arena. It’s loud, intimate and great. It’s like the Mohegan Sun Arena and the lighting is perfect for athletes. 

 Furthermore, it’s a college atmosphere, which makes the game special. Fans stand at the start of each half until the Wings score their first points. The typical tee-shirt tosses and disc-jockey Poizon Ivy keeps the fans entertained as does its outstanding dance team.

 “We were lucky to be able to come to a market like this where women’s basketball and youth basketball thrives,” Diggins said. “It’s one of the biggest sport markets in the country. It’s been nothing but a warm welcome from the city of Dallas, its fans and UT-Arlington since we’ve got here. 

"We love it and have nothing to complain about. We love the community and seeing the youth. It’s been nothing but love from the fans here.”