Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Mike Siroky's SEC Report: Tennessee Gets Richer With a Glittering Diamond

By Mike Siroky

It is one of the usual unfair criticisms of women’s college basketball that top teams seem to keep on attracting top players.

A South Carolina rises only every once in awhile to the heights of a UConn or Stanford or Tennessee and is able to stay there with replenishing the flock year after year.

Holly Warlick, always the primary recruiting coach at Tennessee, has not lost a step since taking over for the legendary Pat Head Summitt.

Amid the flurry of who is playing where on junior national summer teams in this off-Olympic year, Warlick landed a polished gemstone on Thursday when Diamond DeShields chose to transfer in from North Carolina.

The shudder your shoulder felt was from the other SEC coaches who surely must feel this is unfair . . . only because she did not choose them.

DeShields, a 6-1 dominating guard, was the undisputed 2104 national freshman of the year, an All-American with the Tar Heels.

She never did say why she recently left.

Perhaps it is the churn about the coach there. But there are any number of freshmen who have started somewhere and ended somewhere else.

Kentucky had a senior rebounder this year who started at UConn and obviously missed out on national championships but liked her UK experience.

Texas A&M had a potential conference player of the year forgo a senior season of eligibility to join the WNBA because she had been out of high school four seasons after starting elsewhere.

It has always been thus in women’s college basketball, since the first NCAA season and before that with the AIAW experiment when top talent often left their original university of choice to become a Lady Vol.

DeShields will park her 18.0 scoring average, 5.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.7 steals per game for a whole season. But she will start classes in time to celebrate the 4th of July on the Knoxville campus using an SEC Grant In Aid. By the 2015 season, she will have three seasons of eligibility remaining, on scholarship.

Warlick is, of course, ecstatic. Between rides on her motorcycle fund-raisers, she made the proclamation: “We’re very excited to announce that Diamond DeShields is joining the Tennessee family,” Warlick said. “She’s experienced, athletic and passionate, and she has a great knowledge of the game. Diamond has been highly successful at every level of basketball, and her impact on our program will be immediate.”

Besides rookies, Tennessee was a little light at point guard.

As one of the Tennessee legendary ones, Warlick can’t do enough to fortify the position in her offense. Last year’s starter bonked her head on the court diving for a loose ball and missed the rest of the season.

Two rookies had to fill in and did so ably.

They will be juniors and likely No. 2 guards when DeShields starts to run the show after the off-season of learning the intricacies of the Lady Vol way of life.

DeShields shot 42.6 percent from the field and 77.6 percent from the free throw line for the Tar Heels in 2013-14, setting four Atlantic Coast Conference freshman marks, including points (648), field goals (248), field goals attempted (582) and double-figure scoring games (32).

She helped UNC reach the NCAA Elite Eight and finish with a 27-10 record and No. 7 ranking in the USA TODAY Coaches Poll.

She naturally was the 2014 ACC Rookie of the Year and was a member of the All-ACC First Team, ACC All-Freshman Team and All-ACC Tournament Team while nationally picked up the freshman award from the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA).

Her connection to UT is maternal.

Her mom is former Lady Vol track & field All-American Tisha (Milligan) DeShields. She is delighted her daughter has finally seen the Orange light.

“Of course, I’ve always seen her being here at Tennessee,” said Tisha DeShields. “It wasn’t until she developed her craft and skill in basketball – it could have been tennis or a number of things – but I’ve always seen here her. Fortunately, it was basketball, and I just knew she was going to be a Lady Vol.

“I didn’t want to force my agenda on her (when she made her original college choice), and I knew that was her decision and one she would have to be happy with. As a parent, I needed to support her, even though I joked with her that I was going to buy her orange briefs to wear underneath her uniform.

“Now, I just feel like she’s in the right place. I feel like she’s found her place, on The Summitt.”

He dad is no slouch. He is former Major League Baseball player Delino DeShields.

At the national level, she was also named the Full Court and espnW top freshman besides the National Freshman of the Year honor from the USBWA membership.

DeShields was also an honorable mention All-American by Associated Press and Full Court and was on Full Court’s Freshman All-America First Team.

“This is the place I’ve dreamt of since I was a little girl, just being here and playing here at Tennessee,” DeShields said. “God sometimes has strange ways of working, and now I just feel like I am where I am supposed to be. I will give everything I have to make sure those dreams I had as a kid are fulfilled.

“This is not about me. It’s about we. I’m here to help this program win games and win championships.”

DeShields, from Norcross, Ga., was the No. 2-rated high school player in the 2013 All-Star Girls Report and was No. 3 in the HoopGurlz-espnW 100.

She was named 2013 high school girls player of the year by USA TODAY, Naismith and the WBCA and was named an All-American by McDonald’s as well as by Parade, USA TODAY and the WBCA.

She scored a school-record 2,324 points during her career at Norcross, averaging 26.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.5 steals and 3.8 assists as a senior in leading NHS to its third state title in four seasons.

DeShields is UT’s first transfer from a four-year school since Michelle Marciniak arrived from Notre Dame and sat out the 1992-93 season. Tennessee returns nine of 10 players from a squad that finished 29-6, won the SEC Tournament, finished second in the SEC regular season standings and advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 for the 32nd time in school history.

Many expected her announcement to land at Tennessee after her good friend and top freshman prospect Te'a Cooper from Powder Springs, Ga., who's considered the no.1 point guard in the country in the 2015 class, recently announced she's bound for Knoxville.

The other newcomers to the UT program are freshmen Kortney Dunbar (6-2, guard/forward, Edwardsville, Ill.), Alexa Middleton (5-9, guard, Murfreesboro, Tenn.) and Jaime Nared (6-2, guard/forward, Portland, Ore.).

Jannah Tucker, a 6-0 guard from Baltimore, Md., also joins the active roster following a redshirt year in 2013-14 after enrolling in January.

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

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