KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Former North Carolina guard Diamond DeShields is transferring to Tennessee, joining the school where her mother starred in a different sport.
Tennessee announced Thursday that the 2013-14 Atlantic Coast Conference freshman of the year would be continuing her career with the Lady Vols. Under NCAA rules, DeShields must sit out a year before being eligible to play for the Lady Vols in the 2015-16 season, though she will begin attending classes at Tennessee next month. She will have three years of eligibility remaining.
"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 university release. "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. This is not about me. It's about we. I'm here to help this program win games and win championships."
DeShields helped North Carolina go 27-10 and reach a regional final this past season. DeShields averaged 18 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.7 steals per game. She scored a total of 648 points, the most ever by an Atlantic Coast Conference freshman.
DeShields' mother, Tisha DeShields, was an All-America heptathlete for the Tennessee women's track team in 1991, when she was known as Tisha Milligan. DeShields' father is Delino DeShields, a former second baseman who played for five major league teams from 1990-2002.
The decision by DeShields comes as a late birthday present for Lady Vols coach Holly Warlick, who turned 56 years old on Wednesday.
"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 university release." 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."
Diamond DeShields tweeted out a link to an Instagram post late Thursday afternoon in which she thanked Tennessee fans "who have welcomed me into this family" and included a picture of herself in a Lady Vols uniform. DeShields said on her Instagram post that she knew her arrival at Tennessee had been a long time coming, but "I'm finally here."
"Soooo am I allowed to say, 'Grind for 9' now???" DeShields asked on her Instagram post.
Tennessee used "Grind for 9" as its motto this past season in its unsuccessful bid for a ninth national championship. The Lady Vols went 29-6 and lost to Maryland in an NCAA regional semifinal.
North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell announced April 17 that the 6-foot-1 guard from Norcross, Georgia, planned to transfer after only one season with the Tar Heels. At the time, Hatchell said she did not know "or understand" why DeShields was leaving.
DeShields posted a statement on Twitter the following week addressing her decision to leave North Carolina. She didn't explain why she was leaving but said she had a "very detailed and emotional" conversation with Hatchell and that they were parting on good terms.
DeShields' choice of Tennessee comes one week after guard Te'a Cooper, a 2015 prospect from Powder Springs, Georgia, verbally committed to the LadY Vols. Cooper, who is friends with DeShields, had been committed to North Carolina before re-opening her recruitment last fall. Cooper is expected to sign with the Lady Vols in November.
DeShields adds star power to a storied Tennessee program that hasn't produced a first-team or second-team Associated Press All-American since Candace Parker led the Lady Vols to their eighth national title in 2008. That also marks the last time Tennessee reached the Final Four.
This won't be the first time a highly touted guard transferred to Tennessee after one season. Michelle Marciniak spent the 1991-92 season at Notre Dame before joining the Lady Vols. She capped her career by helping Tennessee win the 1996 national title as the Final Four most valuable player.
DeShields is leaving behind a North Carolina team that seemed on the verge of big things.
DeShields arrived at North Carolina as the biggest star in a highly touted recruiting class that also included Allisha Gray, Stephanie Mavunga and Jessica Washington. That freshman class helped the Tar Heels advance to a regional final with a roster that didn't have a single senior.