She may not be through her first full WNBA season yet, but this past weekend Skylar Diggins was witness -- and active participant -- to two historical WNBA firsts.
In Tulsas 98-65 win over San Antonio on September 8, Skylars backcourt mate Riquna Williams famously scored 51 points -- the most ever in a WNBA game. Meanwhile, Diggins, whos seen her scoring increase in the past few weeks, chipped in with 20 points of her own, two shy of her career high. The 71 points that the two guards combined for is the most ever for teammates in a WNBA game, besting the 70-point outburst by perennial All-Stars Diana Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter in 2006.
For Diggins, however, the performance was meaningful for more than just the obvious historical reasons.
It was an amazing experience for me being a rookie seeing (Williams) break out like that in just her second year, Diggins said. She is somebody who is a great offensive player all around, so it was inspiring for me to watch her play and to be able to do that in her second year in the league.
Diggins also said that during the game she could feel the gravity and excitement of the moment building.
I thought it was an amazing experience for me as a rookie because Ive never seen anything like that. Nobody has, Diggins said. It was unbelievable to watch and when you get respect from the other team, thats how you know this is exciting. When you have the other teams fans starting to get anxious when she got to 42 or 43. Theyre like, is she gonna get 50?
Diggins, playing the role of supportive teammate in addition to secondary scorer, encouraged Williams as well.
Throughout the game when she had 20-something, I was like, get 40, get 40, Skylar remembered. And then she gets 40, so then Im like, get 50 then, get 50! We were just egging her on.
Diggins also applauded Williams performance because the Miami product was able to score while staying within the general principles of the offense. The team was not running isolation plays for Williams, Diggins said, and that alone proves the kind of offensive threat Williams -- now the 11th leading scorer in the league has evolved into.
Shes a player we all know can score in bunches, Diggins said of Williams. Shes a blow-by guard that can also really shoot the three too, so you kind of have to pick your poison with her and she was showing it off. She had some mid-range jump shots, she shot some threes and she got to the basket, got a few and-ones, got to the free-throw line, so it was a complete game for her.
Williams iconic effort underscores the overwhelming feeling that Tulsa is a team on the rise. The Shock have two elite bigs in the frontcourt with Liz Cambage and Glory Johnson, but they also sport a strong quartet in the backcourt. There, Williams and Diggins are joined by promising rookie Angel Goodrich and veteran Candice Wiggins, each with their own definable skillset.
Candice rarely misses an open three and is a player that can also explode and make it from the 3-point line and is somebody that is one the best defenders in the league in my opinion, Diggins said. Then you have Angel who is such a great passer and kind of like my partner in crime, Ill say. And just a player that is so heads up about everything and thats fun to play with when you have players who are smart and who know the game of basketball and can play it pretty well.
As a result, Diggins says she feels confident that the players in the Tulsa locker room -- as young as they may be -- can compete at the highest level. All its going to take is a little bit of seasoning.
Ive always thought we had the right pieces, but nothing can teach you about this league like game experience and now that we have a year under our belts, Im excited for whats to come for this team the next few years, Diggins said. This year we knew we were going to be rebuilding and we just decided to lay the foundation down for something good in the future.
Williams record-setting game is a pillar of that foundation. It is simultaneously a glimpse into the future and a demonstration of existing talent. Its also evidence that Diggins and the rest of the team can reference as validation for their optimistic outlook.
I was just glad to be in the game and say I was in the game with her, Diggins said. It was just a great night for our young team. Were continuing to make history with our young franchise and Tulsa and we have a very bright future and (Williams is) one of the players that were really going to build this program around. Im glad to be a part of it.