The Lady Vols experienced yet another turbulent season in 2016-2017, finishing 20-12 and 10-6 in SEC play. Although the team posted an impressive 13-3 home record, Tennessee still faced numerous issues. The Lady Vols weren’t a well-balanced team and relied heavily on the services of three players.
Luckily, Tennessee only had two seniors on the roster — Jordan Reynolds and Schaquilla Nunn. They had significant roles, but weren’t necessarily stars on the offensive side of the ball.
With that, this makes Diamond DeShields’ decision to return for her senior season a crucial step toward the Lady Vols’ conquest for a long-awaited ninth championship. As a redshirt senior, she has experience in spades, but her talent will bolster a roster with six seniors to new heights.
DeShields’ decision also places pressure on head coach Holly Warlick’s shoulders. With so much experienced talent returning — as well as the top-ranked recruiting class — if Warlick can’t deliver at the very least a Final Four appearance next season, her job will certainly be on the line.
This journey is much easier with the services of DeShields, who is an elite scorer… at times. Sure, Tennessee now has experience and added depth, but it also needs DeShields to hold up her end of the bargain offensively. Sure, she led the team in scoring last season (17.4 points per game), but there were too many occasions where the projected top pick in this season’s WNBA draft would force bad shots.
In addition, she must continue to step up as a leader. Given that she’s the most talented player on the team, if not the country, DeShields’ voice on the team is its largest influence.
This past season, DeShields was an honorable All-American mention and an All-SEC First-Team selection by the coaches. While those awards prove DeShields’ worth, she must step up her game even more next season. She is the heart and soul of the program.
In her post on Instagram, DeShields mentioned the two key reasons that ultimately solidified her decision to stay on Rocky Top was stepping up as a leader and improving her game. She wants to be a role model for the incoming freshmen and progress as an overall player. She’s obviously a special talent, but with the post, her focus appears different.
Ultimately, that’s a great thing for the Lady Vols.
Edited by David Bradford
Featured image by Donald Page, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics