Behind The Scenes

Sport Science’s tests prove that
Notre Dame’s ‘Sky’ knows few limits

Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins has little difficulty shooting and passing with defenders draped all over her, but battling electrical monitoring devices was something entirely different.

“It was unusual and something I had to adjust to — after all, it’s not that often that you’re trying to knock down 15-foot jumpers with wires and electrodes attached to your arms and legs,” Diggins says of taping a new ESPN Sport Science piece at The Lab in Burbank, Cal.

“But once I was able to get the feel of those added pieces, it was just another part of the uniform and you just focus on doing your job to the best of your ability.”

Sport Science host John Brenkus described the tests the 2011-12 Big East Conference Player-of-the-Year underwent in dribbling (“The ball is only in contact with each of her hands for nine hundredths of a second”), running (“Her ability to maintain speed with and without the ball is on par with NBA point guard John Wall”), and shooting (“Her forearm angles are remarkably consistent from shot to shot, deviating, on average, less than five degrees”).

“We analyze footage and read scouting reports to get an overall assessment of an athlete’s particular strengths,” Brenkus says of preparing for a visiting athlete.

“Then we design tests that will focus on the specific attributes we want to examine. The comparisons present themselves after the data is analyzed, and we can see where they stack up compared to other athletes we’ve tested or studied.”

The Sport Science results show why “Sky” led the regular-season Big East in assists (5.8 pg.) steals (2.6) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.3), while finished third in scoring (17.8).

“There were definitely some interesting results — some numbers that I really didn’t expect, but was pleasantly surprised to hear,” Diggins says.

“It’s pretty different to go through drills like the ones they gave me when you’re not going up against an opponent.”

Different, but no surprise to Diggins, a fan of the series.

“I had watched many of the Sport Science features on ESPN and became fascinated with their unique nature and how they break down the specifics of sports through science,” she says of the pieces, produced by BASE Productions, which created the original three-time Emmy winning series.

“I was honored to be invited to be a part of a show that I was already a big fan of, and the Sport Science Lab is a one-of-a-kind place — they have a lot of different areas set up for different sports, so there’s something for everyone.”

Diggins’ visit to the Lab, containing a basketball court, football field, fight/MMA area and specialized modern testing equipment that accurately measures pressure, force, acceleration, impact and biomechanics, exceeded Brenkus’ expectations.

“She was a lot of fun off camera, but once the cameras were rolling and the tests were underway, she was all business and hard work — she didn’t hold anything back,” Brenkus says.

“We expected her to be good, but the fact that her speed with and without the ball is almost identical was amazing, and her shooting accuracy was deadly.”

Notre Dame, the Raleigh Region’s top seed, will meet No. 16 Liberty at 2:40 p.m. ET Sunday, as part of ESPN’s coverage of all 63 games of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship Presented by Capital One. The women’s tournament will air across ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN3 and ESPN FULL COURT.

Skylar Diggins returns as a NCAA Championship blogger for espnW. Here is her first entry, fresh off Notre Dame’s Selection Monday meeting.

5:17 p.m.: Hey everyone! I just got back to the Purcell Pavilion after a nice little break, but now it’s time to get back to work. The team and I are anxiously awaiting the Selection Show, so we can finally know who we play on Sunday! Fingers crossed for a good draw! Go Irish! … Mmmuah!

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