Diamond DeShields has decided to reroute her collegiate women’s basketball career through Tennessee. In so doing, she’s revisited a childhood dream.
“As a kid, I always wanted to play for Tennessee, period,” she said. “I wouldn’t say I got sidetracked, but my interest turned in another direction.”
The 6-foot-1 guard finally arrived Thursday after one year at North Carolina. She was on campus along with her mother, Tisha. DeShields signed the necessary paperwork to complete the transfer, and UT issued an official release. She will have to sit out the coming season before becoming eligible for the 2015-16 season. She will have three years of eligibility remaining.
“She’s experienced, athletic and passionate, and she has a great knowledge of the game,” UT coach Holly Warlick said in the school release. “Diamond has been highly successful at every level of basketball, and her impact on our program will be immediate.”
DeShields visited Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina before ending what amounted to a second recruitment. She indicated that her choice was more difficult than the foregone conclusion many women’s hoops observers had determined it to be.
“It was extremely hard, harder than I thought it would be,” she said. “I think it came down to following my gut and the vision I’ve had for myself.”
Her vision included not only playing at Tennessee but being coached by Pat Summitt. DeShields said she cried when Summitt announced in August of 2011 that she had been diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type. Summitt stepped down after the following season.
“I felt like my dream got crushed,” DeShields said.
While crediting Warlick, DeShields also said it was “huge” to become familiar with assistant coaches Kyra Elzy and Jolette Law, who weren’t on the staff previously.
“Once I got to know them, I felt back into my comfort zone,” DeShields said.
DeShields originally committed to North Carolina in May of 2012, ending her recruitment before it reached a full boil. She averaged 18 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.7 steals per game in her lone season with the Tar Heels, who went 27-10 and reached the Elite Eight round of the NCAA tournament. She was honored as the nation’s top freshman by both the USBWA and espnW.
In a statement issued in April, DeShields said that she reached her decision to transfer after meeting with Tar Heels coach Sylvia Hatchell “on several occasions” during the course of the year. Hatchell granted DeShields a release from her scholarship, but Hatchell has maintained she doesn’t fully understand why DeShields opted to transfer.
DeShields said Thursday that she didn’t want to talk anymore about why she left North Carolina. She also minimized any notion that her choice was linked directly to her friend and workout partner, Te’a Cooper. The 5-foot-8 point guard from Powder Springs, Ga., one of the top propsects in the class of 2015, committed to UT last Thursday.
“People will say forever that we’re a package deal and we weren’t,” DeShields said. “What fit for me coincidentally fit for her.”
Tisha DeShields, a Lady Vols track and field All-American in 1991, is optimistic that her daughter will be happy with her new school. For one thing, it shouldn’t feel new.
“She had a pre-existing relationship with a lot of the girls,” Tisha said. “It’s like coming home.”
Diamond DeShields’ father, Delino, played 13 seasons as a second baseman in the major leagues.
DeShields was analytical about sitting out a season.
“As a competitor, I’m going to want to be on the court,” she said. “But me being a thinker, I know I need this year. I know I need this year to be at the standard I’ll be expected to play at.
“As long as I use it to my advantage, I’ll be fine.”