Arguably the best women’s college basketball player this past season was also the No. 1 pick in the WNBA Draft. The best player in Notre Dame women’s basketball history – yes, better than Skylar Diggins – Jewell Loyd has been a spectacular player since her freshman year as a Fighting Irish. The 2015 espnW National Player of the Year was so amazing, she decided to forego her last year of college eligibility to take her talents to the WNBA, which is rare for women basketball players. Although her former head coach, teammates and others in the sports industry knocked her for the decision, heading to Seattle as the No.1 pick with the money she has coming her way from the WNBA and overseas doesn’t seem like a bad look after all. Now that Loyd has moved on to the big league, who’s creating the most buzz entering the 2015-2016 season? The real Diamond DeShields. She entered college as the Naismith Girl’s High School Player of the Year and surely lived up to the hype. She averaged 18 points per game her freshman year, was espnW’s Freshman of the Year and led the University of North Carolina to a 27-10 record and the regional finals in the NCAA Tournament. At 6-foot-1, DeShields has the ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor. She did not play last season because she transferred from the UNC to the University of Tennessee. When she announced in April 2014 that she was leaving, everyone predicted she would land in Knoxville since Pat Summit was so influential in her life and encouraged her to play basketball.
Everyone was right. From Carolina Blue to Big Orange Nation – new mission, same vision – there’s no doubt DeShields is coming back with a chip on her shoulder. She will be a force to be reckoned with in the SEC and NCAA. If she had played last season, it would’ve been tough to decipher the espnW Player of the Year between Loyd and DeShields. Now, I believe by the end of the season, DeShields will take home the award, and maybe an SEC championship. Like Loyd, I expect DeShields to depart from college early to enter the WNBA Draft and go on to be the No.1 pick. Meet the real Diamond DeShields.