DeShields headed to Tennessee

Jun. 12, 2014 @ 11:04 PM

Former North Carolina star Diamond DeShields is transferring to Tennessee.

DeShields had one of the best rookie years in UNC history in 2013-14, scoring an ACC-freshman record 648 points and leading the Tar Heels to their first NCAA Tournament Elite Eight appearance since 2008.

The Tar Heels were scheduled to return every player from that team until DeShields announced she would leave, making her the first women’s basketball player to transfer after being named the national freshman of the year.

DeShields never gave a specific reason for her decision. Her mother, Tisha DeShields — an All-America athlete in track and field at Tennessee — said that it was a case of “a square peg in a round hole.”

UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell, who missed last season while undergoing chemotherapy treatments for leukemia, said that she doesn’t know why her star player wanted to transfer, but she gave her an unconditional release. DeShields made visits to Tennessee, South Carolina and Georgia before picking the Lady Vols.

“This is the place I’ve dreamt of since I was a little girl, just being here and playing here at Tennessee,” DeShields said in a statement. “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.”

Besides her mother’s connection with the school, DeShields also has a deep bond with Te’a Cooper, a class of 2015 recruit who last summer backed out of her commitment to UNC and last week chose Tennessee. Cooper’s father, Omar, was DeShields’ longtime AAU basketball coach, and DeShields attended Cooper’s announcement ceremony.

DeShields won’t be eligible to play until the 2015-16 season because she transferred from one NCAA Division-I school to another.

“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,” Tisha DeShields said in a statement. “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.”

The Tar Heels hosted the Lady Vols at Carmichael Arena this past season, but a UNC team spokesman said that Tennessee is not a part of future schedules.