SOUTH BEND, Ind. — When Skylar Diggins was younger, stepfather Maurice Scott used to tell her about Michael Jordan’s famous “Be Like Mike” commercial. One day, he’d joke, she’d have her own ad like that.
“I want to be like Sky. Sky’s the limit,” Scott said, recalling his suggested tag lines. “We’d laugh about it.”
Funny thing is, he wasn’t too far off.
Diggins is the biggest thing going in women’s basketball these days,. Her smooth shot and uncanny floor vision carried Notre Dame to the national title game last year, and she’s got the third-ranked Irish poised to make another deep run. Her engaging personality and cover-girl looks have made her a crossover hit, with 130,000-plus followers on Twitter and megastar rapper Lil Wayne, one of her biggest fans.
All this, and she’s only 21.
“I think she’s great for the game,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “She’s a great student, she’s a great ambassador when she’s in the community and she’s humble. She’s got charisma. She’s the kind of person that people want to follow.”
She’s a local kid, having grown up on South Bend’s west side and played for her stepfather at Washington High School. She took Washington to the Class AAAA title game all four years, winning it as a sophomore, and walked off with pretty much every award possible her senior year: Indiana’s Miss Basketball. McDonald’s All-American. National high school player of the year.
“She’s one of those players that have an ‘X’ factor,” said Irish assistant Niele Ivey.
When she announced her decision, Notre Dame’s season-ticket sales skyrocketed. Of the 18 home sellouts the Irish women have had, 12 have come since Diggins arrived.
When the NCAA Tournament began last spring, Diggins had about 5,000 followers on Twitter. But the deeper the Irish went, the more exposure she got. By the time the title game was over, Diggins had more than 60,000 followers.