By Charles Hallman
The Tulsa Shock reconstituted its starting backcourt over the recent off-season. Like a musical duo, a guard tandem must develop a rhythm, an on-court synergy that the rest of the team can successfully follow.
Over a course of a month or so, the Shock first acquired Candice Wiggins in a three-team trade in March, and then picked Skylar Diggins with the third overall pick in April’s draft. To date the two guards have started all but one game together this season. Each is averaging an identical 10.2 points and 1.4 steals per game, along with a combined seven assists per contest.
“Her strengths are my weaknesses,” the 5’-11” Wiggins told the MSR on the 5’-9” Diggins. “She’s a creator and gets to the basket. Her court vision and [basketball] IQ is amazing.”
Added Diggins, “We are learning more about each other and reading off each other. I like playing with Candice. She moves well without the ball. All she needs is a little bit of room to get [her] shot off.”
As one-third of the 2013 “Big 3 to See” draft class, the third overall pick is tied for fourth in assists and 15th in free-throw shooting. Among rookie leaders, Diggins is first in assists and steals, second in minutes played, third in scoring and shooting, and fifth in rebounds.
However, Diggins can’t use her four-time All-American, three-time NCAA regional most outstanding player and two-time Big East player of the year awards as a bye in the adjustment period all rookies must go through as first-year pros. She admitted as much recently in her daily “Diggins Diary” posted on WNBA.com as well as to this reporter after the June 23 Tulsa-Minnesota contest.
“Coming from Notre Dame, I would run the ball, but the pace here is different,” said Diggins.
It should also be noted that the pro winning and losing see-saw ledger is vastly different than college: For example, Diggins’ college team only lost six times during her last two years at Notre Dame. Tulsa, however, has at least 10 losses at press time.
“I’m settling in to the [pro] game,” said Diggins. “I’m learning my teammates well and how to execute the offense.”
Tulsa is Wiggins’ second WNBA team after five seasons in Minnesota. It’s sometimes natural for a traded player to overdo things just to prove that the transaction wasn’t a mistake, but thus far this hasn’t been the case, she pointed out.
“I really haven’t felt that pressure,” continued the 2005 Sixth Woman of the Year. “There’s no reason for me to have that pressure. I feel free.”
Despite its sub-.500 record, the Shock remains one of the W’s hardest working and hardest to defeat clubs. This off-season, Tulsa also acquired forward Nicole Powell from New York in the same three-team trade that got them Wiggins, and selected former Kansas guard April Goodrich in the third round of the same draft in which Diggins had been selected two rounds earlier. The 5’-4” Goodrich and last year’s top pick Riquna Williams, who’s currently vying for this season’s top sixth-woman honors, have bolstered Tulsa’s reserve guard corps.
Wiggins, Diggins, Powell, forward Jennifer Lacy and second-year center Glory Johnson may be the Shock’s best starting five. Perhaps another good draft is needed for the team to return to the contention status it once had before the franchise was sold and moved from Detroit a few years ago.
“We have each other’s back on the court,” stated Wiggins.
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