Meet the next big name in women’s hoops: Diamond DeShields. A 6-1 forward out of Georgia’s Norcross High School, DeShields is coming off a monster season in which she posted 19.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game to lead Norcross to its second consecutive state title. The 2011 Gatorade Georgia Girls Basketball Player of the Year, DeShields is currently in Chile suiting up for the Team USA at the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship.
Oh, and by the way, she’s only 16 years old.
ESPN’s No. 2 player in the high school Class of 2013, DeShields is the youngest member of the U.S. squad. But her youth hasn’t stopped her older teammates from entrusting her with the ball. On a roster boasting players from the nation’s top collegiate programs, the rising high school junior is the Americans’ third-leading scorer, averaging 10.3 points per game through her first three contests.
The daughter of former MLB player Delino DeShields, Diamond caught up with Dime before the U.S.’s matchup with China to talk about growing up with a father in the MLB, choosing a college, and dunking for the first time.
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Dime: How do you think the tournament has gone so far?
Diamond DeShields: The tournament is actually going all right. Not exactly how we want it to just because we’re still in the process of gelling together as a team, but every game we’ve definitely made improvements, and as long we’re getting better every day we should be able to make it to the gold, which is our ultimate goal. But overall I’m pretty happy with how everything’s going.
Dime: Have you guys gotten any free time to explore Chile or is it all business?
DD: Today was actually our first day off. We visited (a volcano.) So that was really fun. We got to go to the top and go sledding down because it was snowing and stuff. We’ve been to two pretty nice restaurants. The food here is pretty good. But right after we visited the volcano we had practice. Everyday we’re trying to do something basketball wise.
Dime: Is it tough playing all these games back to back? I imagine that takes a toll.
DD: It’s not too tough when you’re playing for your country. It doesn’t really get any better than that. That’s actually what brings the most excitement to all of us and it keeps us motivated to keep playing. It’s not like a state tournament or an AAU tournament. It’s a world tournament, so every game is pretty exciting for us all.
Dime: What was it like winning the gold medal last summer with the U18 team?
DD: Last year, it was definitely a dream come true. I mean every kid who is aspiring to be a professional basketball player wants to be a part of an Olympic team. And the U18 team is kind of like the foundation for it all. Just winning that one gold medal, it makes you feel like a champion, and that’s definitely what USA Basketball is all about. They really have a rich tradition of winning gold medals and so you know that if you’re playing on the USA team…you’re gonna have pretty good chance of winning the gold medal.
Dime: What did you do with the gold medal?
DD: I put it on the box that has the basketball I scored my 1,000th point with. I put it on that, and it’s sitting in my room.
Dime: What’s it like being the youngest member of the team?
DD: A lot of people ask me that. It’s not really like anything. I’m here playing with Breanna Stewart, she’s the second youngest on the team, and she’s one of the best players on the team, so I mean really there is no age on talent. If you’re on this team, obviously you’re a very talented basketball player and the coaches put you on for a reason, regardless of age. Obviously, if they looked at because of my age, I probably wouldn’t be on this team so I must have something to offer to this team. Age really isn’t a factor in any of this. Everybody’s equal.
Dime: So the other players don’t give you a hard time or anything?
DD: Well, I mean, off the court they’ll joke around sometimes like, “I forget how young you are.” It’ll be little stuff. They’ll never be like “She’s so immature” or anything like that because most people say I’m actually mature for my age.
Dime: How has playing with the U19 team helped you develop your game?
DD: I definitely feel that it’s brought more passion to my game actually because you’re playing on this team and everyone’s so devoted to every little aspect of the game. Especially that loss we took versus Brazil, we took that to heart. You really take pride in your country when you lose a game like that out here. We won’t settle for anything other than a gold medal. I’ve also learned a lot of leadership out here and the importance of defense and hustling and talking on the court and helping your teammates up. All the little things count: touching every line, getting water for your teammates, high fiving, looking your coach in the eye. It’s just all the little things I’ve improved. Not anything like shooting or anything like that. It’s just all the little things.
Dime: Jeremy Lamb went to your high school. Do you remember watching him play?
DD: Oh yeah. I loved watching Jeremy play. Before I knew he was going to Connecticut, I was just so amazed by how he played. Jeremy and I were actually very close in high school. We used to talk about colleges and talk about recruiting and how his recruiting process went. Jeremy’s father, he does stuff at our school as well. Jeremy’s father talks to me a lot. He’s a good Christian man. They have a really strong household over there. They’re good people.
Dime: I read that you also play softball, tennis, and run track and field. Which of those is your favorite?
DD: My favorite to play is tennis. Tennis actually is my favorite sport to play, but having had grown up around baseball and all, I also enjoy softball a ton. My softball coaches are like, “She plays like a boy,” and it’s just because the way my dad has coached me to play my position is like a guy I guess you could say. My stance is different and like everything about me is like a baseball type attitude when I’m out there on the field. But tennis definitely is the one I enjoy the most.
Dime: I know this is a long way off, but would you like to keep playing multiple sports in college?
DD: If it was possible for me to do two sports in college, I would. But I feel like basketball is the way I’m gonna go. I may not even play softball next year just so I can focus on basketball. It’s gonna be hard to even get a dual scholarship if I don’t continue to play all years. And so I might just focus on basketball, but playing another sport that I love in college would be awesome.
Dime: What was it like growing up with a Dad who was playing professional baseball?
DD: That was awesome, actually. We never really got the opportunity to see him around the house just because he was always playing. But being able to travel to all the cities and as a players’ child you get access to a lot of stuff that most people would never see in their lives. There’s a room that you go to where all the players’ kids go hang out. After the games, certain players would have houses in these cities so we would go to their house and eat dinner. You just build bridges with all these athletes. Now that I’ve grown up, I now can talk to a lot of players about college and their recruiting. It’s not just baseball players. We have connections with basketball players, football players. The sports world is very connected and that’s what I took away from it all mostly, just having connections and knowing that it’s good to build relationships with these people at an early age.
Dime: I saw a video of you dunking on YouTube. When was the first time you dunked?
DD: It was the beginning of last year the first time I did it. I was up in the gym at my school and some guy was just like, “Just do it, Diamond. Just do it.” I was just like, “Whatever.” I didn’t think I was gonna be able to but I went up. It was pretty awesome, but I’m not a consistent dunker. I’m not gonna take credit for that. But that was the first time I did it.
Dime: Have you started thinking about potential colleges?
DD: I tried to think about potential colleges, but my mind is really not there yet. I’m still pretty open to a lot of different schools. But I do look for a strong education and some place that will have something that I’m interested in majoring in, and a rich tradition. I kind of know what I want in a school, but I have no idea â€” like I just haven’t really researched the schools in depth that much so I’m still pretty open to it all.
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