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Exclusive: WNBA Star Skylar Diggins

I’m excited to write HBCU Game Time, powered by BOX TO ROW for JET!  As host of the national sports talk radio show, From the Press Box to Press Row, I cover all sports, with an emphasis on our Historically Black Colleges and Universities, with pro sports and some entertainment sprinkled in from time to time.

Tulsa Shock guard Skylar Diggins is the first to admit that she struggled last year in her rookie season in the WNBA.

Diggins had a stellar career at Notre Dame, where she was named All-American all four years. During her junior and senior seasons, she was named Big East Player of the Year and left as the school’s all-time leading scorer. In 2013, Diggins was selected third overall in the WNBA draft.

While the league’s two top picks Brittney Griner and Elena Delle Donne flourished (Donne went on to be named WNBA Rookie of the Year), Diggins did not.

“Last year, I struggled, I definitely struggled,” Diggins said matter-of-factly.  “It’s no secret I wasn’t happy with the product I put out on the court.  Coming in and trying to lead the team from the one spot was definitely a learning curve.”

The numbers don’t lie.

The Shock went 11-23 in Diggins’ first season.  She averaged just 8.5 points per game, shooting 33 percent from the field, 24 percent from three-point range.  Her assist-to-turnover ratio was 123 to 91.

“I worked a lot in the offseason to get better,” she said.  “I’m watching film of last year’s games and just improving on things I need to work on.  I’m coming back with a positive attitude.”

Those changes that she made to improve her game seem to be paying off.  In two preseason games against San Antonio, Diggins is averaging 27.5 points, 5.5 assists and is shooting 54 percent from the field, 50 percent from three point range.  She had 30 points including making two free throws with 2.3 seconds remaining that erased a nine-point second half deficit and rallied the Shock to a 76-75 victory.

Some may argue that all of the off-court opportunities presented to Diggins has affected her play on the court.  She is arguably one of the most beautiful athletes in the world and has a plethora of endorsements.  She is represented by Jay Z’s Roc Nation and is the only female on a roster that includes Yankees pitcher C.C. Sabathia, Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano and NBA Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant.

But that’s not all.

Diggins has endorsement deals with Nike and Sprint. Last month, she appeared in Vogue.  Her appearance in the 50th Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition is becoming legendary.

“You got to admit, it’s a lot different than my basketball jersey,” she joked.

This has been her busiest offseason from an appearance at the Grammys to Fashion Week to her new line of Nike headbands.  She also has over 465,000 Twitter followers.  Yet, so far, all of her off-the-court happenings has not affected her adversely on the court, as she and the Shock prepare for their regular season opener Saturday on the road against none other than San Antonio.

It seems that Diggins may be finding a balance.

“I have a strong circle, that’s where it starts for me,” she said.  “When people want to tell you how good you are, there are people that are honest with me.  That’s the root of everything.”

This exclusive interview with Diggins can be heard on FROM THE PRESS BOX TO PRESS ROW this Friday 1p ET/10a PT on SiriusXM Channel 141.

Listen to Box to Row on Fridays 1p ET/10a PT on SiriusXM Channel 141 and Saturdays 12p/9a PT on SiriusXM Channel 142. You can follow Donal Ware on Twitter @dware1 and @boxtorow. Please share your thoughts at digitalpitches@ebony.com.