Diamond DeShields Finds Gold In The Half Court, Too
Days after her 18th birthday in early March, Diamond DeShields has many things to celebrate, and turning a year older is just the beginning.
In the past few weeks, DeShields has been announced as the 2013 State Farm/WBCA and Naismith National High School Player of the Year. Those prestigious awards come on top of her McDonald's All-America selection and a Miss Georgia Basketball title, and her senior campaign at Norcross High School in Georgia is not yet over. In fact, DeShields and her Norcross High School teammates are seeking a second-straight Georgia Class 6A state title.
Perhaps even more impressive than her high-school career has been DeShield's international accomplishments. Already a two-time gold medalist with USA Basketball prior to this past summer, DeShields played with two USA Basketball teams in 2012, and she added two more gold medals to her collection.
After playing as one of the youngest members on her USA Basketball teams in the 2010 FIBA Americas U18 Championship and the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship, DeShields was the veteran on the 2012 USA Women's U17 World Championship Team in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and she certainly was a leader on the court. Averaging 14.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 24.9 minutes per game, DeShields not only made the five-person all-tournament team, she was named FIBA U17 World Championship Most Valuable Player.
"When they called me for all-tournament team, I was shocked," DeShields admitted. "On the past USA teams that I've been a part of, I've been under Breanna Stewart, Bria Hartley, Ariel Massengale, those guys, and so this year was truly different because I was the leader and I was the one who my coaches would turn to for some direction at times or who my teammates would turn to for some leadership. And so, I think this was the first time that I had gotten credit. It was my first time being recognized as the best player in the grand scheme of things. I never thought that would happen to me. That was awesome."
A few weeks later USA Basketball once again turned to DeShields to represent her country, but this time the task was much different. DeShields would be playing in the 2012 FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship in Spain.
3x3 Break Down
"I think what is most difficult about FIBA 3x3 basketball is how 3x3 basketball originally has been played in the States as opposed to the new FIBA 3x3 format. Most U.S. 3x3 players are used to the traditional, rough, physical format, contrary to the much quicker and athletic game that the new FIBA format brings out of players. The new 3x3 game is such a mental game that it does not give the ability to play rough and physical because as a player you’re constantly thinking about what your next move is going to be."
- Travis Johnson, USA Basketball 3x3 Programs Director
FIBA launched its 3x3 initiative with inaugural competitions in 2010, and the game and its reputation are quickly growing. Played on a half-court with a 12-second shot clock, four players to a team and no coach, 3x3 is fast-paced and challenging. For DeShields, it took playing the game for her to appreciate it.
"I'm not going to lie, at first I was like, '3x3? That's not much of a game.' And then I got on the court and realized you use the same basics from five-on-five basketball and you just apply them into a half-court set," DeShields said. "It is definitely a different game, but it's one of those things where you would think poorly of it before you play it. It's one of those games that I just believe will be judged until someone actually steps out on the court and realizes that it's a lot of fun."
Another thing 3x3 basketball does on the international scene is level the playing field between traditional basketball powerhouses such as the USA and less experienced countries. In fact, the first USA girls 3x3 squad returned home from the 2010 Youth Olympic Games with a bronze medal and 6-1 record after falling in the semifinal to Australia. The 2011 USA team that competed in the FIBA 3x3 Youth World Championship (now called the FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship) returned with a 7-2 record and an honorary bronze medal after forfeiting the bronze-medal game due to having just two healthy players.
It was a different story in Spain this past summer. DeShields and her teammates captured a 7-1 record and the gold medal. The team's lone loss came in the preliminary round in overtime after having just two available players for the extra period.
"The 3x3 gold medal means a lot to me because that was the first 3x3 gold medal for that age group," DeShields said. "It's always good to be a part of history.
"I don't see this is as just another gold medal, because when you are playing with USA across your chest, you are representing so much more than yourself, and I just see it as an opportunity for me to go and do something I've always dreamed of, and be a part of a great team and a great atmosphere, it was just a blessing."
And according to DeShields, the gold medal and representing her country weren't the only blessings she received by playing 3x3 basketball.
"Playing 3x3 really helped my five-on-five game tremendously," DeShields asserted. "You really have to focus on playing perimeter defense in 3x3. There is no help side, so you have to learn to lock down. Even scoring off of one-on-one opportunities. You get a lot of those opportunities in 3x3, which makes you a better attacker in a full-court setting, too."
Another in the long line of differences in the 3x3 game is that the U.S. men's and women's teams travel together, they compete in the same location and they have the opportunity to cheer each other on.
"The off the court part was awesome," DeShields remembered. "We got the opportunity to actually be a fan of our country and support and cheer for the guys team and go to all of their games and be the loudest people, be those obnoxious fans that everybody wants. I think the guys did a great job, and also they did a great job supporting us. We built a lot of friendships while we were over there with the guys, and it was just a great experience."
While the U.S. men celebrated as DeShields and her teammates won gold, the USA Women's 3x3 U18 team watched as the boys team lost a heart-breaker to Serbia in overtime.
"We watched," DeShields said of the men's final. "We were all front row. It was terrible. It was a really well-played game, and you learn to respect other countries a lot more in those types of situations."
Playing for four USA Basketball teams in the past three summers, DeShields has grown tremendously on the court and off, and she has some words of wisdom for those looking to follow in her footsteps.
"I would tell players coming up in USA Basketball that they got invited for a reason, or that they are there for a reason, so don't think you don't deserve it," DeShields advised. "Go out to trials or training camp and play to the best of your abilities. The coaches know what you are capable of, but they want to see who can be different and who can step up to the plate and be a leader. Everyone needs to try and be a leader and know their role and what they are playing for. You are playing for the country and it's way bigger than you are."