Diggins wins Gold medal on 19th birthday

Published 9:13 am Monday, August 3, 2009

BANGKOK, Thailand – Thanks to a near-perfect shooting performance in the first quarter, the United States U19 National Team surged to an early 17-point lead and never looked back, cruising to an 87-71 victory over Spain on Sunday night in the gold medal game of the 2009 FIBA U19 World Championship at the Bangkok Thai-Japan Youth Center.

It’s the third consecutive gold medal and fourth in the past five U19 World Championships for the United States, which has won 26 of its last 27 games at the tournament and avenged that lone defeat (in the ’09 tourney opener vs. Spain) with Sunday’s victory.

Notre Dame incoming freshman guard and USA co-captain Skylar Diggins (South Bend, Ind./Washington) scored 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the gold medal game against Spain, as the five American starters all scored in double figures. Co-captain Nnemkadi Ogwumike led the way with 22 points and 20 rebounds, while Samantha Prahalis contributed 21 points and Kelsey Bone chipped 18 points. Shenise Johnson added 11 points and 10 rebounds, as the United States rode the backs of three of its collegiate veterans (Stanford’s Ogwumike, Ohio State’s Prahalis and Miami’s Johnson), as well as two of the top incoming college freshmen in the country (Notre Dame’s Diggins and South Carolina’s Bone).

“Oh my goodness, It never gets old,” Diggins said. “We went full circle from the time we played Spain and we got another chance at them, and we just put our all into it and really went for the gold as a team together. We really came together over the last couple of days and finally started playing some team ball and got a gold medal.

“It’s been amazing,” she added. “I can’t really describe it. I wouldn’t have wanted to go through with another group of girls. We’re like a family now and we’ll remember each other even when we go off to our respective colleges. I know everybody will have a great career, we’ll keep in touch with each other, and we’ll never forget the night that we won the gold medal.”

Sunday’s victory was especially sweet – literally – for Diggins, who celebrated her 19th birthday with both a gold medal and a postgame birthday cake. It’s the third time in the past three years that Diggins has earned a gold medal while playing for USA Basketball, adding to the awards she picked up at the 2007 USA Basketball Youth Development Festival and the 2008 FIBA U18 Americas Championship.

Diggins started eight times in the USA’s nine games at this year’s U19 World Championship (she missed the matchup with Canada during pool play because of illness), averaging 11.6 points (third on the team, 16th for entire tournament), 3.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists (second on the team, 11th for entire tournament) and 1.1 steals per game.
She also led the Stars & Stripes with an .857 free throw percentage (18-of-21, tied for third in entire tournament) and nine three-pointers (her .333 percentage was second on the team and 12th in tournament), while her 2.5 assist-to-turnover ratio (15 assists, six turnovers) would have been tops for the entire tournament, but she was one assist shy of the minimum qualifying standard (2.0 assists per game).