No Longer The Youngest, Diamond DeShields Embraces Leadership Role
After competing as the youngest member of the USA Womenís U19 World Championship Team in 2011 and the USA ís U18 FIBA Americas Team in 2010, Diamond DeShields is back to playing with athletes her own age as she participates in trials to determine the 2012 USA Womenís U17 World Championship Team.
Not that DeShields, who attends Norcross High School in Norcross, Ga., couldnít hold her own and then some against her older opponents. While playing as a 15-year-old at the 2010 U18 FIBA Americas Championship, she was USAís third leading scorer as she averaged 9.0 points per game to help the U.S. to a gold medal and 5-0 record. She followed that up by averaging 4.7 points per game and 2.6 rebounds per game to help the USA to an 8-1 record and gold medal at the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship.
Now, however, the 2011 Gatorade Georgia Girls Basketball Player of the Year is no longer the youngster, but rather the most internationally experienced of the 33 participants at the Womenís U17 Trials.†
Prior to the opening session of trials, DeShields took a minute with USABasketball.com to answer a few questions about taking a different approach to these trials, as well as her connection to baseball.
Last year you were the youngest player on the U19 team and in 2010 you were the youngest member of the U18 team, now youíre the veteran. Are you taking a different attitude into this summer than in previous years?†
I definitely know being a part of people who are my age, especially having had been here two years prior, I definitely† know that theyíre expecting me to be more of a leader and take more of a leadership role this year. Iíve kind of taken it upon myself to do just that, be vocal and help the people who are new to this because I know how I felt when I was first here. I just want to make people comfortable and make people feel like theyíre ok just being here playing basketball. Thatís what weíre all here to do, so they can just feel comfortable in their skin doing it.
What players helped you and took you under their wing at previous USA Basketball events?
Definitely Ariel Massengale, Bria Hartley, Chiney Ogwumike and Cierra Burdick helped me keep my head focused. Even in practice, when I felt like I couldnít do it, they were always there to pick me up. I really respect them for that and appreciate them for helping me develop into the player that I am. They were indirectly coaching me, and now seeing their success in college, Iím glad to have been able to play with such great players.
Are you planning on taking a similar role now that youíre the more experienced player?
I definitely know Iíve grown tremendously as far as becoming a leader. Whatever I can do to help, I will do. I may not be as Ďbig timeí as Bria and all of them were, but having been here two years, I have the ability to help a lot of people out, especially first-timers.
What have you personally taken from your past experiences with USA Basketball?
Iíve gained a lot more pride in my country playing against other countries and seeing their excitement when weíre playing. That loss we took to Canada last year really heightened things for everybody on the team as far as pride. Iíve taken a lot of pride away, Iíve taken a lot of leadership and just respecting your own game and knowing you can do anything because I would have never thought as a 15-year-old that I would have been playing up the way I was. It made me have a lot more faith in myself and faith in God and just be thankful for all the opportunities Iíve gotten.
Youíve already won two gold medals, describe that feeling and what it would mean to you to possibly win a third before your senior year of high school?
Thatís amazing. Thatís the standard for USA Basketball, period. Gold medals are the standard. I expect nothing less this year with whoever ends up making the team. The committee does a great job of choosing people who will win, so I expect nothing less this year and I know USA will get the gold at the (FIBA U17 World Championship) because thatís just what we do. The players here are going to work for it and are going to earn it and we deserve it.
With your father, Delino DeShields playing 13 years of Major League Baseball, did you play softball growing up?
I played softball; I stopped playing last year actually just to focus on basketball because at a certain point, basketball becomes life. I was very good at softball; I played shortstop. I started as a freshman. It was a lot of fun for me. I always wanted to be a professional baseball player, but we all know thatís impossible but thatís just what I love to do. I love softball.
When did basketball begin to take priority over softball?
Last year because I was busy. I ran track, I played softball and I did basketball. It was starting to wear on my body and Iím committed, so I realized this is what I want to do in the future, so I donít want to injure myself doing something else.
Your brother, Delino Jr., is in the Houston Astrosí farm system and was the eighth overall pick in the 2010 MLB draft. Having another elite athlete as a brother, do you two ever play one-on-one?
My brother could not guard me. When we were younger we would play and he used to beat me because he was just stronger than me. But now Iíve developed and heís just a baseball player and thatís all he is. Heís like 5-8, so Iím way taller than him. Heís always like, ĎIím still bigger than you,í but he definitely couldnít check me.