Diamond DeShields' departure still mystifies UNC's Hatchell
North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell still hasn’t figured out why star player Diamond DeShields is leaving UNC, but the freshman has received an unconditional release to transfer to another school.
When DeShields’ decision was first publicized by The Herald-Sun on April 17, Hatchell said she didn’t “know or understand” why the nation’s top freshman wanted to transfer. Speaking before a Rams Club event Thursday night, Hatchell said she was still in the dark.
“I don’t know. Really,” Hatchell said. “I was as shocked as anybody. I’m not sure Diamond knows.
“It might have been the same anywhere she went. Maybe it was just the change to college. I’m not really sure what it is. I wish I knew.”
Tisha DeShields, Diamond’s mother, told The Herald-Sun last week that there wasn’t one “huge, dramatic” reason or “one identifying factor” why Diamond was transferring after she scored an ACC freshman-record 648 points and led UNC to its first NCAA Tournament Elite Eight appearance since 2008. Instead, Tisha said the school just wasn’t the right fit.
Hatchell, who missed the entire season while undergoing chemotherapy treatments for leukemia, said that she met individually with DeShields twice after the season.
“She told us she wanted a release, five days after she said on television ‘We’re playing for you, Coach Hatchell.’ And then I met with her before she left,” Hatchell said. “I kept asking her, ‘Talk to me, what’s bringing this on?’ She couldn’t tell me.”
Still, Hatchell said the school has already released DeShields, which will allow her to receive an athletic scholarship at her new destination – though DeShields would still have to sit out next season because of NCAA policy. Also, per ACC rules, DeShields would lose a year of eligibility and would be forced to pay her own way for one year if she transfers within the conference.
Early speculation is that DeShields will end up at Tennessee, where her mother was an all-American athlete in track and field, or Georgia, which is located about an hour away from her hometown of Norcross, Ga.
Despite losing the espnW and U.S. Basketball Writers Association freshman of the year, Hatchell said the team is still optimistic about next season. The Tar Heels are expected to return every other player from a team that went 27-10 and upset top seed South Carolina in the NCAA Tournament.
“All those young players are good, and I think they realize, ‘It’s going to be more opportunities for me,’” Hatchell said.
Hatchell, who is now cancer free, is also eager to return to the bench next season.
“I can’t wait to get back out there,” Hatchell said. “I’ll probably get a technical every game because I’ll be so fired up.”