As the 2015 WNBA regular season wound down, Skylar Diggins was on a high. In her third season with the Tulsa Shock, the former Notre Dame point guard was leading her team in scoring with 18 points per game and piloting them to eight wins in their first nine games.
Then, disaster. With 44 seconds left in a Shock win over the Seattle Storm, Diggins, who had dropped 31 points, collapsed after chasing down a loose ball and tore the ACL in her right knee. She missed the remainder of the season, which ended with the first winning season in Shock history and a playoff berth.
Since then, Diggins’ life has been defined by change. The Shock were swept out in the first round of the playoffs, then announced the the franchise would move to Dallas. Diggins, who had continued to live in South Bend, Indiana, during her three years in Tulsa, moved to her team’s new city to continue her rehab. She returned a few games into the 2016 season but soon realized she had come back too early and headed back to the bench. The newly named Dallas Wings finished the year a disappointing 11-23. Diggins appeared in 27 games and averaged just 13 points per game.
Diggins is now feeling like she’s back to 100 percent, and she’s had another whirlwind off-season. She got engaged to her longtime boyfriend and is in the midst of planning a wedding. She wrote a children’s book. And she’s heading up the 2017 Allstate WBCA Good Works Team, which recognizes female athletes from college programs across the country for the work they do in their respective communities.
Diggins was able to take a few minutes from her busy schedule to chat with STACK about everything that’s gone on in her life since that fateful day in 2015.
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STACK: You’ve had a heck of an off-season. You wrote a book, got engaged, participated in some Nike basketball camps—and trained for the 2017 season. Do you ever get burned out?
Skylar Diggins: I love being busy, I love moving around. I say I have that feeling of, “I just want to go home,” but then when I get home, I’m like, “I can’t wait to start moving again.” I like to chill, but I think sometimes when I start to spend too much time at home, I’m like, “I’ve got to be moving around.” I love to travel, and luckily for me I’m blessed and am able to still have work in the off-season. It’s definitely been busy and it’s not going to stop, especially with planning a wedding. But it’s all good things.
It’s been a tough go since you tore your ACL in 2015. You admitted that you came back too early in 2016, and then the season didn’t go as you hoped. What did you learn from that experience?
It’s really hard playing when you don’t feel like you’re yourself; but at the same time, you don’t know what it’s going to be like until you get out there and get a feel for it. I didn’t feel like it was dangerous for me to be out there. I just think it was above the neck and mental for me to trust myself and trust my body. I think some of it was physical, having to work the kinks out and get my rhythm back. Not being able to be on the floor and play organized basketball for 11 months, I knew I’d be really rusty. I knew 27 games, I don’t know if that was going to return me back to 100 percent. I’m excited about this off-season for that reason, being able to take time for myself and work on skill work instead of going straight from rehab to trying to work my way back to the floor.
I saw that ball being thrown up and wanted to be a part of it and help my teammates out. The excitement of being able to step out on that floor again can be overwhelming. But I want to be safe and have a career for 10 years down the line. I decided it was best for me to take some games and keep working. It’s a process, feeling 100 percent again. I feel very close to that now.
Injuries suck. But were you able to take some positives out of missing time?
I think for me, being young and thinking I could just jump on the floor, I didn’t have to spend very much time in the training room because I’d never really had an injury. I’d never really missed games or practices like that. That was the first major injury I’ve had. It definitely taught me a lot about my body and how I should’ve, or should from now on, take care of it. I’m glad I learned that lesson sooner than later. Injuries aren’t an anomaly. You play sports and things happen. I knew it wasn’t anything I could control. But I can use my journey and document my journey for the young women who had went through this or are also going through this—they could be watching me go through my journey.
Young girls would hit me up on DM and send me messages and say, “I tore my ACL, how are you dealing with it?” It was at a time when I wasn’t very strong mentally going through my rehab and had my doubts. So having those messages and kids asking me for advice and me being that voice for them and trying provide them with some inspiration and motivation when I probably needed it myself . . . it kind of made me be stronger knowing that youngsters are looking up to you and you’re a role model and people are watching you. That was really what came out of it that I really wasn’t expecting, seeing how many people were watching my journey and how many people cared and how many people could relate to it.
You said you’re close to being back to 100 percent. What’s been your training focus this off-season?
Agility has been a lot of the work that I’ve put down. Core, a lot of core. Balance. A lot of functional movement training. For me right now, trying to improve my running form and my technique and a lot of lower body strengthening exercises around my knee and my hamstring and my quad and calves and hips. On the floor, getting in a lot of skill work at my position and spots on the floor. Being in Dallas is great for me. I can work out with my coach, and having him there and having the Michael Johnson Performance Center right there as well, it’s great being in Dallas and I’m looking forward to this next season.
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Speaking of Dallas, how’s the transition from Oklahoma to Texas going?
We loved the city of Tulsa and having the support of the fans in the city for three years. We still get those fans, Tulsa fans still drive down from there to Dallas. We don’t have to miss as many of them because they come to the games, which is awesome. Dallas, being one of the biggest sports towns, to be the only professional women’s team in town, people are really taking a liking to us. I like that during our games this year, we saw a lot of different faces. We’ve had sellout games. The fans love their basketball here, with how much talent has come from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and having a product on our team from the DFW area.
And I live in Dallas now. I never lived in Tulsa. I was still in South Bend. So this is my first year out of South Bend moving to Dallas. The biggest difference would be not having a Thanksgiving where it snows (laughs), but we definitely want to make our way back north for Christmas. But I love the city. They’ve really embraced our squad. That makes me even more anxious to get out there next year seeing how the community has responded to us.
Do you feel like this is the most crucial off-season and season of your career?
That’s an interesting way to categorize it. I don’t know how I would categorize this year. I feel like people aren’t really checking for our team. They’re not expecting a year where we make the playoffs and have a playoff run. We have expectations for ourselves and have an understanding of what our goals are, but I don’t think people are checking for us. And I don’t mind that! I think we still have an underdog mentality, and that’s the great thing about an underdog. You don’t really see them coming. For me, I want to embrace that mindset that we’re going to finish games. The great thing about the league is you have to have a short-term memory. I’m focusing on us and not what other people are thinking for us.
Well if you need to shake off more rust, the Dallas Mavericks could sure use some help. Maybe give Mark Cuban a call
I’m staying away from that! (laughing)