Historic Haul

DeShields

Unprecedented. That's the word Hoopgurlz.com founder and veteran girls coach Glenn Nelson used to describe this past weekend for the UNC women's basketball team.

In less than 24 hours, Sylvia Hatchell's program landed four of the top 20 players in the class of 2013. On Saturday, No. 3 Diamond DeShields, No. 8 Allisha Gray, No. 15 Stephanie Mavunga and No. 18 Jessica Washington all gave verbal commitments to the Tar Heels.

"Certainly, we've seen schools get four of the top 20 in a class," Nelson said. "But, it's never happened like this before. Never in one day."

Deshields, daughter of 13-year MLB veteran Delino Deshields, is a 6-2 wing from Norcross, Ga. Deshields chose the Tar Heels over UConn, Tennessee, Duke and Maryland.


Diamond DeShields
photo courtesy of Omar Cooper, AOT
She's a long, explosive and multi-talented player," said Nelson. "She's been in the mix for the No. 1 spot in her class and still is. What's unique about this class is there are basically three players who have been No. 1 or we think can be No. 1. Diamond is definitely one of them. She's a level of player UNC hasn't had recently, if ever."

Omar Cooper, Diamond's AAU coach, believes she has an ability to forever change women's basketball.

"I see her becoming a Michael Jordan type honestly," he said. "I've never seen a girl that can hang in the air and do some of the things she can. She can bring that kind of flavor to the women's side and can change the game for females.

"The way she approaches the game - is just different. It's something that you've never seen before from a girl. I've seen speed and I've seen athletic ability, but I haven't seen speed, height, athletic ability, skill and personality all in one person. That's Diamond."

Gray, a 6-0 guard from Sandersville, Ga., picked UNC over offers from Maryland, Tennessee, Kentucky and South Carolina. She's an explosive scorer, whose quickness and speed make her an ideal fit for UNC's up-tempo system.

"She could be a top three to five player in another year," said Nelson. "And she just might end up being that this year."

Mavunga, a 6-2 forward from Brownsburg, Ind., decided to commit to UNC over UConn, Indiana, Louisville, Purdue and Stanford. She's an outstanding rebounder, whose ability to block shots can fuel UNC's fast-break style.

She averaged 21.6 points, 12.4 rebounds and 5.1 blocked shots per game during her junior season at Brownsburg High School. She also shot 57.7 percent from the field.


Jessica Washington
Photo by Cory Young, Tulsa World,
Washington, a native of Tulsa, Okla., is an exceptional lead guard with tremendous court awareness and vision. At 5-8, she can weave through traffic and successfully finish at the rim.

"Jessica is the type of player every coach wants - completely solid fundamentally, tough as nails and ultra-competitive," said Kelly Hines, a reporter for the Tulsa World. "She has the moxie to drain a 3-pointer in a defender's face, but also the vision to create excellent opportunities for her teammates. Since her freshman year, she's been the heart and soul of her team."

Nelson said that, in some cases, chemistry, style and playing time can become issues for large classes. However, he doesn't expect that to be the case for UNC's 2013 class - which already features three other commitments - Briana and Bria Day from Raleigh, N.C., and Tanisha Brown, a guard from Myrtle Beach, S.C.

"A lot of kids will say they're a package deal, but not really mean it," he said. "But, these kids really fit in together well. What UNC is going to end up with is a versatile, athletic team."

Aside from versatility, Nelson believes scoring ability is what separates UNC's current class from others.

"This class has a lot of kids who can score the ball off the dribble and create their own shots," he said. "We take that for granted in the men's game, but it's a fairly recent phenomenon on the women's side. Diamond, Allisha and Jessica Washington all are that type of player."

The UNC staff - Hatchell, and assistants Andrew Calder, Tracey Williams-Johnson and Trisha Stafford-Odom - got verbal commitments from more top 20 players on Saturday, than it had in the previous three seasons combined.

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Nelson gives a lot of the credit for Saturday's coup to Stafford-Odom, in her second season at UNC.

"She has a history of wherever she goes - UCLA and especially at Duke - of helping pull off great classes," he said. "It's not a coincidence that this happened when she arrived. She has a proven record."

UNC already has commitments in both the 2014 and 2015 class. The 2015 commit is Te'a Cooper, daughter of Omar Cooper and AAU teammate to DeShields. Still, Nelson and Cooper think the momentum that started on May 5, 2012 could be hard to curtail.

"In the women's game, the best players all flock to the big programs," said Nelson. "If you hit a streak like this, it becomes self-perpetuating. Carolina was already a great program and now it's way ahead on the classes of 2014 and 2015."

Added Cooper: "Her (Te'a) and Diamond are already on the trail, trying to get people to join them," he said. "They'll all be working together to make magic at Carolina."

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