KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee guard Diamond DeShields says sitting out this season due to NCAA transfer rules will give her time to recover from a leg injury that has bothered her since high school.
DeShields says she played at “probably about 75” percent last season at North Carolina, though she still performed well enough to be named the Atlantic Coast Conference freshman of the year.
The 6-foot-1 guard said she wouldn’t be healthy enough to take the floor right now even if she were eligible to play this season.
“I’m just taking my time,” DeShields said. “Whatever was nicked and bruised is getting healed up. I’m not rushing anything.”
DeShields announced in April that she was transferring from North Carolina, where she averaged a team-high 18 points per game and set an ACC freshman record with 648 total points while helping the Tar Heels go 27-10 and reach an NCAA regional final. Less than two months later, DeShields indicated she’d continue her career at Tennessee, where her mother was an All-America heptathlete on the women’s track team.
She isn’t practicing with her new team yet and says she hasn’t done any full-scale, five-on-five workouts for the past two months, though she did play some pickup basketball this summer. DeShields said she expects to get back on the floor “at some point soon.”
“I’m not getting too anxious because I know once this year’s over with, I’ll be playing a lot of basketball for a really long time,” DeShields said. “I know how it feels to just go repeatedly month after month, day after day, just pounding. I’m enjoying this break right now just to kind of take the pressure off my lower limbs and whatever other joints that I have. It feels good to just be able to relax a little bit.”
DeShields apparently isn’t relaxing too much. Tennessee’s coaching staff has praised her work ethic and energy level.
“She’s been such a positive for us in workouts, in the weight room doing her thing,” assistant coach Dean Lockwood said. “Here’s a kid who was very, very decorated obviously as a player and she could come in and be very casual, [but] she’s been one of the hardest workers on this team in terms of getting the work she’s been assigned to done. … Right away she’s making a statement that she’s committed. She’s making a statement that she’s here to win, she’s here to do the right things the right way. I think it speaks to her character.”
— Diamond DeShields
DeShields says she’s getting acclimated to her new school. She has familiarity with Tennessee from her family connections to the school and says she attended a handful of Lady Vols games while growing up. She called playing for Tennessee “one of my life-long goals.”
“I feel like I kind of just started college all over again,” DeShields said. “I feel like a freshman. It’s a fresh start. I’m excited to be here. It’s pretty cool.”
Even though DeShields won’t play this season, sophomore guard Andraya Carter says that “having to guard her, having to go against her day-in and day-out will still help us.” That’s why the Lady Vols are eager to see DeShields return to full strength.
“Once she comes back and gets on the practice floor, how about that for a scout team — having a player like that simulate your opposing team’s best player, best scorer?” Lockwood said. “And as multidimensional as she is, she can do so many different things. It’s going to be a tremendous asset for us, to have her as a scout team player.”