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Loyd Fills Diggins Void For Notre Dame

Skylar Diggins and Jewell Loyd

Some would say that Skylar Diggins put Notre Dame Women’s Basketball on the map.  She certainly lead the way in making Notre Dame one of the premiere programs in the nation, spending majority of last season ranked second in the nation. 

Along with Diggins is head coach, Muffet McGraw, who has been the head of the program for 27 seasons.  McGraw had a vision for the Fighting Irish program when she first came in and she has certainly exceeded everybody’s expectations. 

McGraw posts an astounding record of 626-217 while at Notre Dame and was inducted to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011.  More recently, she received the Big East Coach of the Year award in 2013.

Last season, Notre Dame averaged 81.2 points per game along with 19.5 assists, making them one of the most dominant offensive threats in the league.  At the forefront of their run and gun style was Diggins, who averaged 17.1 points and 6 assists during her final season in South Bend. 

Although Diggins consistently put up big numbers for the Fighting Irish and led the way defensively, her leadership is what made her so valuable.  She constantly made others around her better and had full control of her team at all times.  Diggins was exactly what McGraw wanted her to be; an extension of herself on the court. 

Now that Diggins has graduated and moved onto the WNBA, the Fighting Irish have some big shoes to fill.  Sophomore, Jewell Loyd, is up for the challenge.

Last season, Loyd was named Big East Freshman of the Year averaging 12.5 points and 5.2 rebound per game.  The freshman averaged 31 minutes per game, proving that she was an instrumental part in the Irish’s success. 

Despite a great first year, Loyd said she doesn’t get caught up in worrying about individual awards.  Instead, she has turned her focus to the upcoming season and helping her team continue to improve.    

“I will have to talk more and lead by example,” Loyd said.  “I have continued learning the game and am gaining confidence to speak up when I see stuff out there.”

Last year, Diggins immediately took Loyd under her wing and helped her adjust to being away from home and playing at the college level.  Loyd said she was grateful for the opportunity to play with Diggins and learned a lot from her both on and off the court. 

“Sky is a great player but an even better person,” Loyd said. 

Loyd spoke highly of the genuine, honest person Diggins is and said that is why she respects her so much. 

Another change Notre Dame will have this year is the switch from the Big East Conference to the ACC.  This will give them a schedule full of new opponents, but more importantly, eliminate two conference games that could potentially change everything.

Last year, Notre Dame faced UConn three times during the regular season, one of those times being the conference tournament.  Notre Dame beat UConn the first three times, but lost to them in their fourth encounter in the Final Four. 

As anybody knows, in the game of basketball, it is hard to beat a team three times let alone four times.  The conference change may provide a new and exciting element to the game when these two teams meet up in the NCAA tournament. 

Notre Dame has high expectations to meet, but it is evident that Loyd and her team are willing to do everything in their power to reach them.  Along with Loyd, the Irish return senior, Kayla McBride, a 5’11” physical guard who averaged 15.9 points per game last year. 

McGraw and Diggins have definitely raised the bar at Notre Dame and Jewell Loyd plans on carrying out their legacy.  Expect big things from the Fighting Irish in the 2013-2014 season.