When Notre Dame’s women’s basketball team hits the floor next fall,
sophomore Natalie Achonwa and freshman Markisha Wright will inherit
the bulk of the post duties.
Both put in considerable time in Tuesday’s national championship game
against Baylor because of Devereaux Peters’ foul trouble.
“Ace (6-foot-3 Achonwa) is really talented, and I think she's got a
great future,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “I think the way she
played against Maryland (18 points, seven rebounds) I thought was a
great start for her to move into next year. And (6-foot-2) Markisha
Wright, I like her. I wish I would have played her more throughout the
year, because she's strong and she's a really good low block player,
which we don't really have. So I think the two of them will be really
good next year.”
Wright said the championship game taught her a lot.
“Defensively, since I’m a smaller post, I’m going to have to work on
how to guard someone taller than me,’’ Wright said. “Playing in the
championship game helped me a lot. I’m going to have to build on
becoming a better defender and being able to thrive for my team on
offense, even though I’m a smaller post. Just being here in this
moment, and not being able to come through with the win, will motivate
me to get better in every aspect.”
Sophomore Kayla McBride said she will have to step up her game and her
leadership to help replace the four players who are graduating from
“I’ve seen from our seniors how hard they worked, how much it took for
them to get here,” McBride said following the loss. “I’m willing to do
anything and everything to help this team. I hate that we couldn’t
take our seniors out on top.
“Next year, we have a whole new year, a whole new season, and it
starts tomorrow. It starts as soon as we leave Denver. We’ll have the
same focus, to get better every day, and to make sure that everybody’s
mindset is the same, that we want to get back here, and we want to be
the best team in the country. I’ll be an upperclassman next year. I’m
going to have to step it up. I can’t be a role player anymore. I have
to be a player who everybody can look up to.”
Wiggins Irish for a day
It was a sight that caused college women’s basketball fans to do a
double-take — former Stanford great Candice Wiggins wearing a green
Notre Dame hoodie, sitting in the Irish section for the national
“This is the only time of the year I would wear green,” said Wiggins,
who plays for the Minnesota Lynx of the WNBA. “I actually got the
sweatshirt back in South Bend. It’s my lucky sweatshirt. It’s the only
Notre Dame sweatshirt I own, and I only wear it once a year.”
Wiggins put away her Cardinal gear for one night in order to support
her close friend, Notre Dame point guard Skylar Diggins.
“I was overseas and I told Skylar, I didn’t see any of her games this
year,” Wiggins said. “I told her that the only way I would get to see
her play would be in Denver for the national championship. I told her
way, way, way back in the season.”
Wiggins was just glad she didn’t have to deal with a Notre Dame vs.
“I would have flown out of here so fast and just disappeared,” Wiggins
said. “That would have been really hard, like ‘Sophie’s Choice.’ I
love Stanford. It’s me. It’s my heart, my soul, it’s everything. I
love (coach) Tara (VanDerveer). I want them to win a championship, but
I would be so happy with Skylar winning a championship. When she wins
something, she wins for so many people. I would be proud of that,
Diggins was accepted at Stanford, and her college choice came down to
Stanford and the hometown Fighting Irish. She met Wiggins on a
recruiting visit in 2008, and the two became close friends.
“I met her at Stanford and I was blown away, just her aura,” Wiggins
said of Diggins. “We immediately clicked. We’re so much alike. We
could talk about one subject for days and days. We have a lot in
common. Skylar and I have kind of become, like soul sisters, in a way.
We’re both so supportive of each other. I think in this game, women’s
basketball is all about teamwork, anyway. We’re like two great
teammates in life.
“That would be so cool if we could be teammates. I have no doubt that
Skylar will handle the WNBA when her time comes. Just like in college,
it’s her character, it’s who she is. She was born for this. People
don’t understand the passion. Passion for playing a sport like
basketball doesn’t just happen overnight. It’s years and years and
years of dedication, discipline … that’s what I think Skylar has
that’s going to be so special at the next level, her passion.”
Building the fire
Diggins said she is focused on building better leadership skills.
“I thought I didn't have good leadership out there tonight as far as
keeping our fire,’’ she said of the championship loss to Baylor. “But
I'll do better. I promise.”
McGraw said she thinks Diggins will be an exceptional leader and
player next season.
“I think that Skylar will be even better next year, which is kind of
hard to believe,” McGraw said. “She really is pretty amazing, the
fight that she has. She’ll get the freshmen lined up pretty quick.
She’s going to need some help.”
Diggins plans to start preparing for next season immediately.
“I’m excited,” Diggins said. “We have good players coming in. We have
Jewell Loyd, who is one of the best players in the country right now,
as is Michaela Mabry. I’m excited for them to come in. They better be
practice shooting it like Natalie Novosel and Brittany Mallory. We
have a lot of players who will step up. I’m hungry, especially after a
loss like that to Baylor. I’m super excited to get back in the gym.”
Notre Dame’s battle against Baylor on Tuesday was the highest rated
NCAA women's basketball championship game since 2004.
Baylor’s 80-61 victory earned a 3.2 rating, which is an increase of 14
percent from last season’s championship game, which featured Notre
Dame and Texas A&M.
It was the best rating since Connecticut's 70-61 win over Tennessee in
2004 earned a 4.3 rating.