Skylar Diggins met with U.S. women’s national team director Carol Callan and coach Geno Auriemma in September in France to receive news common in sports but unusual for a player of her stature.
You didn’t make the team.
Diggins, an All-American at Notre Dame and All-Star with the WNBA’s Tulsa Shock, was one of three cuts following the U.S.’ exhibition loss to France on Sept. 21, six days before the World Championships. Diggins didn’t play against France, the U.S.’ first loss since 2011.
The cuts brought the U.S. down to 13 players. One more player was cut later that week to reach the roster maximum of 12. The Olympic roster chosen next year is also a maximum of 12.
“We have the best players in the world competing to be on the best team in the world,” Diggins said while in New York for NBA All-Star weekend. “It’s going to be challenging. There’s only 12 spots, and there’s way, way, way more than 12 players who could be deserving of those spots.
“The committee chose what they wanted. For me, it’s all about that experience. I have many years with USA Basketball, many great experiences. Any time they call on me, I’m going to show up and try out to make a team.”
Diggins, a guard, tried out for the team following her second professional season and a WNBA Most Improved Player award.
The guards who made the team included Olympic champions Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and Lindsay Whalen as well as Odyssey Sims, Diggins’ teammate with the Tulsa Shock who was coming off her rookie season.
The U.S., without Diggins, won the World Championship in Turkey to clinch a 2016 Olympic berth.
Asked if there’s anything Diggins wanted to say to or show Auriemma in future camps before the Olympic team is chosen, she said no.
“I’m going to continue to be myself,” Diggins said. “I learned a lot from the vets out there.”
In September, Auriemma spoke to the difficulty in selecting a 12-player team among the U.S. talent pool. And that was without the injured frontcourt players Tamika Catchings, Sylvia Fowles and Candace Parker.
The final four players cut — Diggins, Stefanie Dolson, Kayla McBride and Jantel Lavender — were all 25 and younger.
“They’re young pros with not a lot of international experience, and they’re all playing positions that are difficult to crack into the lineup,” Auriemma said in a press release, before Lavender was the last cut to accommodate Brittney Griner. “Every one of those players that weren’t chosen will be a huge part of USA Basketball going forward. It’s just like so many before them, this is not the right time.”
Though Diggins played for a rival of Auriemma’s Connecticut in college, they embraced following Diggins’ final Notre Dame game, a 2013 NCAA Tournament semifinal defeat to UConn.
“He told me not to let this game define my legacy and said I have done more for the sport than some people who have won four national championships,” Diggins said then, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Diggins’ third WNBA season starts in June.