When Skylar Diggins was starring at Washington High School in Indiana, her favorite player was Candice Wiggins, then at Stanford.
It was that fact -- and of all things, an interview at the ESPYs -- that laid the groundwork for a meaningful friendship that has now converged in Tulsa.
The story goes that Diggins, who was accepted to Stanford, met Wiggins on an official visit to the school, even though Wiggins had already graduated. They immediately hit it off -- she was just cool and so down to earth, Diggins said -- but their friendship, as it stands today, actually didnt flourish immediately.
When I went to Stanford we didnt keep in touch right away after that, but when she was overseas she saw this video of me at the ESPYs, Diggins said.
Wiggins, at the time unaware of the video, remembered just feeling compelled to check up on Diggins. She ended up doing a Google search of Skylar and thats when she noticed the video.
So I clicked on it and it was an awesome interview and then at the end she says, well my favorite player is Candice Wiggins. I literally almost slammed my laptop down, Wiggins said. I was like, what. It was almost like she was talking to me.
Later in the interview, Diggins also said that she modeled her game after Wiggins.
Thats when it really hit me, like shes really watching me and looks up to me in that regard, Wiggins said. It was a respect that nobody has ever shown me of her caliber.
From there, equal parts inspired and flattered, Wiggins offered Diggins unsolicited insight, even though Diggins was now at Notre Dame. The first time Wiggins reached out, it was via a note to Skylar on Facebook.
It was encouraging, just pure encouragement, Wiggins said of the message. I told her if you want to talk about anything, I totally understand the situation youre in and how its a special time for you. I told her youre going to do exactly at Notre Dame what I did at Stanford. Im sure of it.
Someone like Skylar, all she needs is encouragement.
Diggins still values the advice Wiggins gave her while in college, especially during her freshman year.
She knew what it took to be a leader, Diggins said of Wiggins. She was a leader, she led her team. She was a Wade Trophy winner. She went to Finals Fours and she just did all the right things and she was someone who really helped me out in college and gave me a lot of tips and was a mentor to me.
From there, the two would continue to stay in touch, and Diggins would even travel to Minnesota to see Wiggins play for the Lynx.
Fast forward to this past March as Skylar was preparing for her final NCAA Tournament. Wiggins, fresh off a second-straight trip to the WNBA Finals, was traded from Minnesota, where she had spent her entire five-year career, to Tulsa, which coincidentally owned the No. 3 pick in the WNBA Draft, a spot rumored to be a possible landing spot for Diggins.
I knew that when (Wiggins) went to Tulsa that there was a possibility I could come too, so I was excited, Diggins said. Never in a million years did I think wed play on the same team, especially not my first year, but I was excited. Shes one of my best friends."
Diggins was indeed selected at No. 3 and the tandem -- like a big sister-little sister thing, Diggins said -- became teammates. The friendship and bond has only grown from there.
Were self-proclaimed nerds, so we kind of relate in that sense, Diggins said with a laugh. We do all the girly-girl stuff. Well go get manicures, pedicures together. Well do a little shopping together. Were big food-heads. We like to eat. You pretty much can catch us anywhere eating.
When theyre not eating -- a safe bet is the Waffle House, Wiggins said -- you can see them bonding over another one of their shared passions: music.
Candice is a jute box, Diggins said. She knows a little bit of every song, a little bit of every style. If somebody says something or something close to a phrase of a song that she knows in their conversation, shell just sing the song. We both kind of do that. Sometimes we do random song and dance.
Diggins, only three years younger than Wiggins, plays the little sister role to perfection when it comes to music.
I try to keep Candice current with the mainstream music, Diggins said. I think she walked straight out of the 70s and the 60s. Thats Candice.
Wiggins, however, says she learns more from Diggins than just the hot new artists.
Really she encourages me because theres so many aspects of Skylar that I admire, Wiggins said. Were very similar in a lot of ways, but were very different in a lot of ways. Shes very bold, shes brave, shes strong-willed and those are things that I really look up to in her.
On the flip side, Wiggins said she was happy to have Skylar on the team so she could -- again -- be the one to help her out with an important transition in her life.
Ive never been outside of Indiana and Ive definitely never been in Oklahoma or the WNBA, so to have someone thats been through it, it just reminds me, like shes walking me through this too, Diggins said.
With Wiggins once again helping shape Diggins on and off the court, the symmetry between the two has become even more noticeable.
When I was watching her play in college, it was really fun because I feel like I got to just relax, Wiggins said. Its almost like I got to see myself. I see myself in her a lot. A lot of me I see in her and that makes me proud because that makes me feel like Im looking at a reflection.