eeWings’ guard Diamond DeShields has seen quite a lot in a short time not only as a professional athlete but as a human first and foremost.
When she was 15, DeShields was diagnosed with keratoconus, an eye condition that weakens the cornea and causes it to bulge outward. As her condition progressed, she has had two eye surgeries and has to wear specialized glass contact lenses to help her eyesight. To protect her glass contact lenses, she wears goggles on the court. Her eyewear is a staple among fans in each of her stops in the W and this season in Dallas looks to be no different.
DeShields’ bounce back mentality didn’t stop after her keratoconus diagnosis.
In 2019, she started all 34 games, averaging 16.2 points and 5.5 rebounds en route to an All-Star selection, the first of her career.
While playing overseas following the end of the WNBA season, DeShields went through a life-altering experience. After an on-court collision, she underwent an MRI that revealed a grape-sized tumor in her spinal cord. DeShields faced the risk of paralysis whether she went through with the surgery or not, according to ESPN, and the surgery gave her spasms and tremors from the impacted nerves. The road to rehab was difficult, and the nerve damage caused loss of body control, and loss of feeling.
DeShields still returned for the 2020 WNBA bubble, playing limited minutes off the bench for the Sky while dealing with the lingering side effects from her surgery. In the Wubble, DeShields averaged 6.8 points on 43.4 percent shooting from the floor.
Fast forward to Oct. 17, 2021 when – 21 months after her back surgery – DeShields helped lead Chicago to its first WNBA title. After considering retiring from the game she’s loved since a child, DeShields reached the highest point of her profession.
Training Camp Begins
In a press conference after the second day of training camp, Jasmine Harper of Winsidr asked DeShields what it feels like to go from being one of the younger players on a team to the second most experienced:
“It’s a new experience…I’m still really trying to gather my thoughts around it and find the words to describe it. It’s kind of one of those coming-of-age things. I can’t believe that I’m now kind of to that point, but at the same time, I feel like I played with such great vets and learned from such great vets that I’m fully prepared to take that on and embrace that challenge as I pursue this next level of my career.”
Acquired in the four-team deal that sent former Wings’ guard Marina Mabrey to the Sky, DeShields enjoyed her third best scoring season in 2022 (13.1 PPG) while certifying her position as one of the premier wing defenders in the WNBA. That said, the No. 3 pick in the 2018 WNBA Draft was brought to Dallas for more than her on-court production.
DeShields enters her sixth season in the WNBA and for the first time in her career will lead in a veteran role, being one of the most experienced players on the Wings this season. DeShields went from looking up to the great vets she spoke of like future Hall of Famers Candace Parker, Courtney Vandersloot, and Allie Quigley to being that player that others look to for guidance. In the span of two seasons, that is quite the pendulum swing.
Besides three-time WNBA Champion Natasha Howard, DeShields is the only player that has considerable playoff success. A champion in her own right with the Sky in 2021, DeShields knows what it takes for a team to be the last one standing hoisting the trophy. Wings’ head coach Latricia Trammell is fully aware of this as well.
When asked by ESPN’s Alexa Philippou about the dynamic between DeShields and Arike Ogunbowale, this is what Trammell had to say:
“I’m going tell you something. Diamond in the last two days has been unbelievable. Vocally, very positive, giving great information to her teammates and Arike and her are feeding off of each other in that way. And don’t exclude Natasha Howard because all three are really using their voice. One thing that Diamond has really appreciated, and I keep telling her this, this is a new beginning and new chapter and for what she didn’t like in the previous season. This is a time for her to erase that and come in and make a bigger impact and get her back to where she was playing a couple of years ago and she’s all on board for that.”
It’s no secret that the Wings’ culture needed not only a change in direction but an influx of leadership as well. Despite the goldmine of gifted players over the years, Dallas has failed to generate a fostering environment where experienced players are empowered to get the best out of the young talent. From what Trammell says, she sees the leadership qualities developing on the very second day of camp.