RECOVERY: Diggins expected to step up after injury

Michael Casagrande

Senior center Tiffiany Diggins has dealt with her fair share of adversity since her college basketball career began back in 1999 at the University of Washington.

Diggins – Western’s tallest player – bounced from Washington to Central Arizona College, before finally landing on the Hill last season.

And Diggins will probably miss the early part of the 2002-03 season with a tear in her anterior cruciate ligament. She said she’s taking her recovery day-to-day. Diggins, who tore her ACL late last season, will be the first to admit that the physical therapy has been a trying ordeal.

“You basically had to learn to build muscle and everything back in your leg,” Diggins said. “It was like learning to walk again.”

Coach Mary Taylor Cowles has witnessed Diggins’ struggles and is looking forward to seeing her back on the floor. She has practiced with the team this preseason.

“Tiffiany is working really hard with her rehab and continuing to work hard on the basketball court,” she said. “I see Tiffiany making tremendous progress.”

The center from the Pacific Northwest is coming off a 2001-02 season that some may consider a disappointment. While starting 22 games at center, Diggins averaged 6.2 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.

Teammate Kristina Covington disagrees with those who think Diggins’ contribution last year was sub-par.

“I think what people didn’t know is that Tiffiany played through pain all year,” Covington said. “She played with a torn ACL, and what she did was play to the best of her ability. Some might say she had a disappointing year, but for me, she gave it her all, and that’s all that counts.”

And Diggins is eager to get back on the court to prove her critics wrong and help the Lady Toppers in the paint.

“We don’t have any other post players, so I know my teammates need me,” Diggins said. “I want to be out there just as much as everyone else my senior year. My personal goal is to go out and play hard every night and help my team win basketball games.”

Diggins’ odyssey began with the Huskies of the Pac-10. After red-shirting her first season as a walk-on, Diggins made appearances in 21 games the following year. Despite being named the Most Improved Player in 1999-2000, Diggins left the soggy weather of Washington, and headed south.

At Central Arizona College in 2000-01, Diggins averaged 7.9 points and 4.7 rebounds per contest. Her efforts help to propel the team to a top-10 junior college ranking and an NJCAA Tournament appearance.

Then she made the move to the Hill.

Diggins’ top performance at Western came when she racked up 14 points on the road against Miami (Ohio) on Dec. 18, 2001.

The potential Diggins showed last season leads Covington to see her as the Lady Toppers’ force to be reckoned with in the middle this season.

“At 6-foot-3, how can you not see her?” Covington asked. “She showed that she can score at any time, and I think that Tiffiany is the key. We need to get her the ball. She needs to take it up strong and be the player she can be.”