Diamond Bragg admits that until recently she didn’t really know that much about the University of Wisconsin except that its football and men’s basketball programs always seemed to be successful.
And that the women’s basketball program was not.
Bragg, a 5-foot-9 combo guard from Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, intends to do something about that beginning in the 2018-19 season when she joins the program.
That was the message she gave coach Jonathan Tsipis when she made her commitment to UW on Monday night.
“I told coach Tsipis that I want to help lead this team, I want to help change this whole thing around,” Bragg said. “Basically every program at Wisconsin has a winning history.
“Women’s basketball is an exception to that right now, but with what he’s trying to do with the program I believe that can be changed around. It will take time but I think we can really turn this whole program around and get women’s basketball back on the map.”
Bragg did that for her Camp Hill High School, leading the Lions to a 20-5 record as a junior. She earned Class 2A first-team All-State honors after averaging 21.4 points, 11.7 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 2.7 steals and 1.6 blocks per game.
She becomes the third member of Tsipis’ 2018 recruiting class, joining Carmen Backes, a 6-1 wing from Chisago Lakes, Minnesota, and Jasmine Hale, a 5-9 guard from Glen Este, Ohio.
Less than two months ago, however, Bragg had charted a different course when she committed to Georgetown. But a few days later Hoyas coach Natasha Adair left to take the job at Delaware.
That caused Bragg to reconsider her options. When James Howard was promoted to head coach at Georgetown, Bragg told him she would still consider the Hoyas but that she was going to reopen her recruiting.
And the first school she thought about was Wisconsin. She was familiar with Tsipis, who had been recruiting her when he was coaching at George Washington and had continued to follow her after coming to UW last year.
She talked with several other schools and could have waited until after the July AAU season to entertain even more offers. But after visiting UW a couple weeks ago she pretty much knew where she wanted to go.
“I decided that everything I wanted in a school was at Wisconsin,” she said. “I wanted to show my love for them and I want to play for them. They’ve had a belief in me for a while and I paid attention to that. I’ve known coach Tsipis since he was at GW and everything felt right.
“One day he referred to Wisconsin as being a sleeper, such a great place, and if we could just get the right kids on campus this whole program could be turned around. When I heard that, it was like I want to go out there. He’s completely right. Wisconsin has everything. It’s a great place and I instantly got that vibe as soon as I walked on campus.”
Bragg has played for the powerful Philadelphia Belles AAU program, which counts All-Americans such as Breanna Stewart (UConn) and Maggie Lucas (Penn State) among its alums. Kevin Lynch, Belles program director, said Bragg will bring an intriguing combination of tangibles and intangibles to the UW program.
“She is a really high-motor kid,” Lynch said. “The thing that makes Diamond so special is that she’s a true leader. She’s somebody that the other kids really look up to and follow.
“She’s a very good on-ball defender. One of the things with her high motor is she gets to the basket really well. She’s a great penetrate-and-kick guard and she’s somebody that can knock down the open shot. I think it’s a terrific fit for Diamond and for Wisconsin.”
Lynch was impressed with the way Bragg handled things following the coaching shuffle at Georgetown.
“She handled that whole situation very professionally,” he said. “She’s a very smart, very mature young lady. She has her act together. Diamond oozes confidence and it comes out. She’s not afraid to speak to anybody and she knows she’s going to be successful.”
With her college decision behind her, Bragg is looking forward a big month on the AAU circuit without having to worry about the coaches who might be evaluating her. Well, except for one staff.
“I just get to go out there and have fun,” Bragg said. “I get to play for Wisconsin now. I’m not just playing for myself anymore, I’m playing for the Badgers. I’m going to make them look good out there.”