Diamond DeShields [Interview]

Diamond Deshields, basketball player for Norcross High School

Diamond DeShields; The Athlete…The Person
This is the complete Q&A, a portion of which appeared in the March issue of Sports Gwinnett magazine – part of the cover story “Nine People Who Have Impacted Gwinnett Sports in Their Own Way”

Norcross’ standout basketball player Diamond DeShields has earned numerous accolades for her talents on the hardwood. From International gold medals in 5-on-5 and 3-on-3 competition to State Championships to individual honors, there are few things the 18-year old senior committed to the University of North Carolina has not accomplished prior to suiting up in college let alone finishing high school.

DeShields hoop game is filled with athletic grace, smarts and a competitive fire that is unleashed on opponents nightly. A smooth gliding layup, a pull jumper or a defensive play that leads to a bucket-like the one against McEachern earlier this season where she stole the ball, fell down but kept her dribble, got up and drained a three-pointer,  just to name a few. Is it genes as her father Delino DeShields played Major League Baseball for 13 seasons after choosing baseball over basketball, her mother Tisha M. DeShields was a standout on the University of Tennessee Track & Field team from 1989-1991 and her older brother is currently in the Houston Astros minor league organization, maybe so. Each athlete is always looking to carve their own niche and be their own name. How did Diamond DeShields embark on her journey of becoming a successful athlete?  We sat down with her for a little one-on- one.

Where did your desire to play basketball come from and when did you know you were pretty good?

“The idea of being apart of a team. One thing that always drove me want to be an athlete in general was winning; winning gold medal, winning trophies. My brother had a huge trophy case and I wanted some and I knew I could do that playing basketball because I was good at it and I just wanted to be a winner and be part of something like family.”

Were there any other sports you seriously considered playing?

“Initially I was a tennis player and of course always growing up I wanted to play baseball. Baseball was my love and passion. Basketball did just fall into my hands, a coach one day asked me to just come and try it to see how I liked it and I did really good, we won state I got trophy and it felt good. I was like 9 at the time.  I trained with Venus & Serena’s dad in Orlando and I took it very seriously and I was very good at it. I put a lot of pressure on myself because individually you did have any help out there  so when I would lose I would take it all out on myself but as a basketball player it’s distributed amongst the team and everyone is being held accountable, I felt better losing together.”

Talk about your international experience, overall how has it make you a better ballplayer?

“The experiences I’ve had international have been surreal, especially in the beginning of international play because I was always the youngest on the team. I’ve learned a tremendous amount of leadership through players like Brea Hartley (UConn), Chiney Ogwumike (Stanford), Kayla McBride (Notre Dame) all those big names that will be in the WNBA in a couple of years. I got an opportunity to play with [them] and I was very blessed and I just took it all in as one of the youngest players and it really helped me moving forward.”

Who is the best player you’ve played with or against in international competition?

Brina Stewart (UConn). She’s just a freak athlete and I’ve never see a wingspan like hers, it’s 7’1 1/2, probably the only player that literally just jumped up and blocked my shot and I’m a jumper so that kind of just hurt me a little a bit. She’s gotta be the best player I’ve ever played against period. I don’t think I was in awe when I found out I had to play against her, I’ve never really been in awe of a player. Well Britney Griner (Baylor) is the only one I’ve been in awe of playing against because she is so huge. Playing against Brina I was more like we got come play today because I know what she’s capable of so I was ready for whatever.”

What is the major difference in 3-on-3 basketball, do you think it may become an Olympic sport?

“You have no coach. You cannot be coached by anyone but yourself, your coach has to sit in the stands, which basically makes you have to think on the fly, call your own timeouts and it’s a half court game with a 12-second shot clock. It really teaches you how to play perimeter defense, there is no help side, you either lock down or your man is going to drive by you and score. The game is faster and it requires a lot of thinking. If your one of those players who forgets plays or who isn’t able to improvise on the court you’ll have a lot of trouble playing 3 on 3 basketball and you never really know how hard it is until you play it. Coming into it I was like ‘this is 3 on 3-you just ply ball’ but there is a lot of strategy behind it in regards to setting screens, setting on balls, hedging and recovering, its way more difficult than you think. Playing at that level can make you a better 5on 5 player because it teaches you how to play in the half court. There is no transition; there is no rebounding and outlet on the fly. It’s you rebound take the ball back behind 3pt line and you go back to where you got the rebound from, its like a 1 on 1 game and you get to hone in on your individual ball handling skills because those things can be exploited in a 3-on-3 game….I think it will end up being an Olympic sport, it’s basically the beach volleyball of basketball.”

You’ve accomplished a lot so far in your basketball career, so far what is the accomplishment that means the most to you?

“Winning back-to-back state championships with the teams we had because my first year we were the underdogs and the second year we won I was the leader of the team being sophomore so we had a lot of youth involved in those state championships so I take a lot of pride in those two because of all the things we went through in order for us to even win those.”

What is the best part about playing for Coach Hembree?

“She doesn’t let you get away with anything, on and off the court. If she finds out you’ve been mouthing off to a teacher more than likely she’s going to have you running or depending on the extent she’ll suspend you a game or two or three it doesn’t matter. She’ll discipline you and she has your best interest at heart no matter what and no matter who you are. If you’re the superstar on the varsity or the 12th person on the freshmen team she’s going to take care of you, she’ll give you the shirt off her back if she has to. She came from Miami  she has that college mentality, the practices are go hard or go home there is no walking, pouting, crying if you can’t do it and you show you can’t do it she’ll kick you out, you have to be tough and get over it. Basketball wise she listens as long as you know what you’re talking about if you don’t know basketball she’s not going to listen to you. She’s adaptive to the player and listens but for the most part as she said ‘mama knows’ and for the most part she’s right and doesn’t need our opinion. If there is a personal issue I feel comfortable enough to go talk to her.”

Through the 2012-2013 regular season and region tournament Diamond averaged 20.7pts 6.8reb 4.1stl and 3.7ast. She has scored over 2,100 career point points, is the all-time leading scorer in Norcross history and is 3rd in Gwinnett County history.  The unfinished business of winning another state championship is still in progress at the time of print however we asked for her outlook on being able to win the state title as a senior. “We definitely have another chance and my confidence level has never been this high in a team or in myself so I have a very strong belief that we’ll win state again and I have no problem saying it. I think and plan on doing it again this year, simple as that”, DeShields said.

Behind every athlete is a support system that does not receive the attention it may warrant. This can come from family, mentors or very close friends. For Diamond she gives a ton of the credit to her mother. “My mom has made tremendous sacrifices for myself and the rest of my siblings whether it’s missing a meeting or spending some money she may not have been in the position to be spending to get us where we needed to go…all those long road trips. No one loves you like a mother does and she’s impacted me in ways I couldn’t even explain’” DeShields said.

Her mother has always been by her side and openly admits she knows nothing about basketball and they rarely talk basketball between them. “When it comes to basketball Diamond is all Coach Hembree’s,” Tisha DeShields says. “I’m there for the things that are important.  I was not going to just raise an athlete but a well-rounded person and to use the gift she has in basketball to her advantage and make people remember Diamond the person not the athlete,” her mother added. Diamond has taking that to heart.

Why did you choose North Carolina, what will you major in and why?

“A lot of different schools had something thing I wanted. If I could take them and combine one big school I would but ultimately what made me choose North Carolina was they have a Hall of Fame coach (Hatchel), the program hasn’t been what it usually is and I feel like that is an opportunity for me to be one of the ones to bring it back up near the top where it should be and they have a few new coaches that I enjoy and like. The team is very welcoming to myself and my family. Outside of basketball I wanted to go somewhere on a college scholarship where god-forbid I have a major injury that will not allow me to play anymore I wanted to be able to enjoy my college student-life like a regular student as far as being on campus and all of that. Carolina has an awesome student life, all the sports are good. I appreciate baseball, soccer, volleyball, lacrosse and all those other sports. I want to sit down and watch those other sports try to win a conference championship. I’m very supportive and everyone knows the Carolina community is awesome. Their fans support and respect not just the Men’s basketball but Women’s. All of that tied in to my decision including the incoming recruiting class, I love them like sisters already.

“I want to study something involving genetics or in science field and I’m really good at science but the thing that hurts me in that is the math aspect of it and I’m not very strong at that but I know I can study genetics and not have to do as much math so hopefully something in regards to genetics. Science is unlimited there is always new knowledge in the science field, basketball is a science.”

Why the number 22? Will you wear it in college? Why No. 7 in USA ball

“My mom would say my brother growing up was #11 so I’m the second oldest so I doubled it. Everyone wants to wear number 23 because of (Michael) Jordan on the boys sides, girls side because of Mya (Moore) so I can just be one down and see what I can do with 22. Honestly I just like the number 2 and I just put as many of them on the jersey as I could and made it work. I don’t think I’ll be able to wear #22 in college because a freshman has it so I may have to change up. I wore #30 as a freshmen here because I couldn’t wear #22. I came from Woodward Academy and growing up I looked up to players and Elan Brown wore #30 while she was at Woodward Academy and she was an awesome player and I just thought she was the best thing since sliced bread. #7 I was assigned with the USA Team, it did feel weird looking at it but once you play it don’t matter.

What would you tell the average fan that doesn’t respect women’s basketball why they should?

“The person that doesn’t have respect for Women’s basketball doesn’t have respect for basketball period. You can be a fan of Men’s over Women’s but you can’t respect one over the other. At the same time the ball has no sex the ball is not a man the ball is not a women. We all dribble the same and women are put through the same workouts a male is put through. Half of the time it’s sexist…, if you put me on the floor with the top boys in the nation I guarantee you I’m going to go out there and score, play defense and do exactly what they do. I mean they can jump higher and are stronger but I can do what a male does. It’s a sport that is meant for everybody.”

The girl or boys basketball size which do you prefer? Ask about playing against boys?

“I like the girl’s ball. It really doesn’t matter but the girls ball is what I play with and what I’ve been playing with for years. I don’t train with the boys ball, it’s heavier it’s bigger but it doesn’t affect my shot, if you can shoot you can shoot. If I had to play with a boys ball I could it wouldn’t be a problem. When I play pick up with the boys we use a boys ball, but when I play a guy 1 on 1 they want to use a girls ball and when they lose they want to blame it on the ball and I’m like if you’re a hooper it doesn’t matter what kind of ball you use. It doesn’t matter.”

Do you put added pressure on yourself?

“No. I love this sport and when you love something there is no pressure. People ask me do I get nervous playing in front of thousands of people and I say no. I know how to dribble, shoot and the court is the same shape as when the gym was empty so I’m pretty sure I’m going to do it all the same.

You volunteer at camps and are active in the community, why is that important to you?

”I believe it’s important just because it keeps me grounded. It’s enjoyable I love making other people happy. Even within this school I have done so much that nobody knows of. Some days I come to school with no one in my car and I’ll leave with 4 people in my car from football players, basketball players, track runners that don’t even know me and they’ll just say ‘they need a ride’ and I say ‘ok no problem it’s fine’. I just get a good feeling inside knowing that that I’ve helped someone out. In the community I’ve done things like the Feed The Homeless or other little things in the community from picnics at the park to playing with little kids in the park that I don’t even know that stuff is priceless and that is the stuff that you can never take from me, I can do that until I die. Basketball is going to end eventually and I always want to help other people and have a good impact in the world and be a good influence” 

When you are not playing basketball nor studying what do you enjoy doing?

“I enjoy the arts and plays I play the trumpet I listen to some classical music here and there as its soothing to me. I do enjoy plays, Broadway is awesome. I’d never be in a play but I can genuinely sit down and enjoy the arts.”

What is your favorite book or reading selections?

“I think the Hunger Games series was awesome. I mean a book that is just mind-blowing that everyone is reading is “50 Shades of Grey”, that whole series and  I know some people my ask why am I reading that but I just think it’s interesting , very interesting once you sit down and read it. I enjoy fantasy books and realistic fiction is my favorites. I those are pretty cool.

Diamond DeShields in on a path for success and is staying true to herself along the way while doing whatever she can to help the next person.  In the end there is going to be a lot more to remember about Diamond DeShields the person than the athlete.

Are we gonna see a dunk from you before HS is out?

“Humph…eventually, yea. In HS…that’s the goal I don’t see why not. I tried last year and I missed and I could have had 2ptrs and 2pts is 2pts but I’m not opposed to trying again.”

Joel Hillsman
Joel is a sports media freelancer covering high school and pro sports since 2009. He is play-by-play announcer and show host for high school football and basketball on NFHS Network covering the southeast and produces game highlights for NBA TV and Turner Sports.