When Diamond DeShields was asked who served as her inspiration, the Sky guard used to rattle off the usual candidates.
Michael Jordan. LeBron James.
DeShields even said Mercury forward DeWanna Bonner once in an interview.
“I actually had to Google DeWanna [after the interview was over],” DeShields said. “I had never watched her play, and here I was saying she was my favorite player just because she was that chick at Auburn at the time.”
But now DeShields is drawing inspiration from an unusual suspect: herself. And she can say that with comfort and confidence now.
“I truly believe my inspiration comes from something deep inside me, and it’s definitely fueling me to do what it is I’m doing,” DeShields said.
“Whenever I would say it was somebody else, it never felt right. I was like, I’m not really inspired by Michael Jordan, I mean he doesn’t have that same effect on me that he did on other people.
“It’s almost like you should say Michael Jordan as a basketball player or LeBron. But for me, it wasn’t that, because the thing I’m trying to do hasn’t been done before.”
What is DeShields is trying to accomplish? She said you’ll have to wait and see.
DeShields is a fierce competitor. Athleticism runs in her bloodline. Her father, Delino DeShields, played 13 seasons in the major leagues including two with the Cubs; her mother, Tisha, was an All-American heptathlete at Tennessee; and her brother, Delino Jr., is the center fielder for the Rangers.
After the Sky drafted her third overall in the 2018 draft, DeShields broke out as a rookie. Last season, she was third on the team in playing time, averaging 28.4 minutes. She also scored 14.4 points per game — the second most on the team — while shooting 42.5 percent from the field and 32.8 percent from three-point range.
“It was a good start,” DeShields said. “I was very comfortable in the league last season.”
But still, DeShields expects more from herself.
“If contention was something that felt comfortable with me, then I would be content with last season,” DeShields said. “But me being who I am as a person and as a player, I definitely wanted more out of last season.”
After plans to play for a Turkish team this offseason fell through, DeShields played one month for a team in China. The extended time off allowed her time to prepare her body for the upcoming season.
General manager and coach James Wade thinks highly of DeShields and believes she hasn’t reached her full potential yet. DeShields said Wade has made it clear what his expectations are heading into training camp next month.
“He expects me to be the best player on the floor,” DeShields said. “He expects me to be a hard worker, to defend and just be everything that he knows and believes that I can be. He has a very keen sense for what he wants from the team this season, and he believes he has the pieces to accomplish what he wants to accomplish.”
DeShields said the Sky is using last season’s disappointments to fuel their motivation.
“I feel like as a team we underachieved last year,” she said. “And I believe not only myself, but the rest of my teammates are coming back with a chip on our shoulders as far as the way we ended last season.”