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2020 vision: Diamond DeShields eyes Tokyo Olympic Games

Diamond DeShields has been envisioning herself at the Olympics for as long as she can remember.

Diamond DeShields wants to earn her spot on Team USA’s roster for the 2020 Olympic Games.
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Diamond DeShields has been envisioning herself at the Olympics for as long as she can remember. She specifically recalls her reaction in 2013 when the International Olympic Committee elected Tokyo to host the 2020 Summer Games.

Upon seeing the news, DeShields, then a freshman at North Carolina, shared it on social media with the caption: “I’ll see you there.”

Six years later, DeShields has played her way onto USA Basketball coach Dawn Staley’s radar.

After a successful second WNBA season that included an All-Star nod, DeShields got a taste of what it’s like to rep the red, white and blue on an international stage last week when she helped Team USA to a gold medal at the FIBA Women’s AmeriCup Tournament in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The U.S., who outscored its opponents by a whopping 232 points, beat Canada in the championship game Sunday.

Though the U.S. was down several key players due to the ongoing WNBA playoffs, DeShields, one of four Sky players to play in the tournament, took advantage of the opportunity. In two of its six games, DeShields led the U.S. in scoring. She finished averaging 10.7 points on 58.1% shooting and 3.3 assists.

“It’s a huge honor,” DeShields told the Sun-Times in a phone interview. “Whenever I get a chance to put on the red, white and blue, it always means more than the individual [successes]. So just being able to represent an entire nation is nothing short of amazing.”

But DeShields, who was named one of the five All-Stars of the tournament, was playing with a larger goal in mind. She wanted to prove to the USA Basketball staff how much she’s matured as a player and a person in order to give herself a better chance for 2020.

And it seems like she left a positive impression.

Earlier this week, Staley praised DeShields’ athleticism and temperament.

“Diamond makes things look so easy and I just felt like Diamond could pick up any sport and make it look like her natural sport,” Staley said. “And that’s an incredible way of looking at her and what she brings to the table because she makes things look so easy.”

The only constructive criticism Staley had to offer DeShields is that she needs to work on being more consistent.

“Her ability and skill set brings incredible potential every time she steps out on the floor,” Staley said. “She can really impact it on both sides of the ball. I think she’s gotta continue to come and play with some of the older players because I think she needs more experience playing with Sue [Bird], Diana [Taurasi] and all those Olympians who weren’t there this particular time because they’re the core of the team.”

USA Basketball announced earlier this summer its new expanded program, which will supplement eight players’ incomes this winter so they can train year-round in the U.S. in preparation for the upcoming Summer Games. DeShields didn’t make the cut.

But it’s still highly likely that DeShields will get her chance to train with the likes of Bird and Taurasi at at least one of USA Basketballs’ five training camps this offseason, Staley said.

For DeShields, it’s just another opportunity to prove her worth. Until then, though, DeShields is preparing to take her talents to Italy, where she’ll play this offseason with Famila Wuber Schio.

“One of the biggest takeaways for me is to just keep on showing people who I am and obviously doing what I do on the court,” said DeShields, who averaged a team-high 16.2 points with the Sky this season.