Three of UNC’s four signees – Diamond DeShields, Stephanie Mavunga and Jessica Washington – were selected on Thursday to play in the 2013 McDonald’s All-American game.
The game will be played in the United Center in Chicago on Wednesday, April 3 and will mark the first time the Tar Heels have had three signees selected.
“It’s a great class and exactly what we need,” UNC head coach Sylvia Hatchell told Inside Carolina. “They’re very skilled, played together with USA Basketball and are all really good friends.”
DeShields, a 6-3 wing and daughter of MLB veteran Delino DeShields, is Fullcourt.com’s No. 1 overall player in the class of 2013.
“Any athlete who has played since a young age, before you go pro you want to be a McDonald’s All-American,” DeShields said.
“I was inspired to become a McDonald’s All-American the year Candace Parker played in the game (2004). Her performance inspired me to work hard and improve myself. Making the McDonald’s team is a dream come true and I really do appreciate the McDonald’s committee for giving me the opportunity to play on this team, for respecting my game and for thinking I’m worthy of this type of accolade.”
She is a three-time USA gold medalist (U17, U18 and U19) and is averaging 22 points, six rebounds and three assists per game for Norcross (Ga.) High School. DeShields was the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s 2012 player of the year, has already led her team to two state Georgia Class 5A titles and is a 2013 WBCA High School All-American.
“Lots of people have compared her to a Michael Jordan type,” Hatchell said. “She can do it all. I haven’t had anyone that could do everything at such an extremely high level like she does – she can dunk and play any position on the floor. I’ll be surprised if she doesn’t win a High School National Player of the Year award.”
Mavunga is a 6-4 forward at Brownsburg (Ind.) High School. She’s UNC’s first MCDAA from the state of Indiana. She’s Brownsburg’s all-time leading scorer, a 2013 WBCA High School All-American and was Indiana’s Gatorade Player of the Year in 2012.
Fullcourt.com ranks her as the No. 23 player in the class of 2013.
“She’s extremely tough around the basket,” Hatchell said. “She’s gotten taller and stronger. Her size and ability to finish will make her a great post player for us.”
Washington is a 5-8 guard from Tulsa (Okla.) Jenks High School, who will eventually be given the keys to UNC’s up-tempo offense. She’s UNC’s first MCDAA from the state of Oklahoma.
A 2013 WBCA High School All-American, Washington averages 24 points per game for Jenksl. She scored a career-high 51 points against Muskoegree earlier this year and surpassed 1,000 career points. In 2012, she was named the Tulsa World’s All-Metro Player of the Year.
Fullcourt.com ranks Washington as the No. 24 player in the class of 2013.
“She’s an absolutely perfect fit for what we do,” Hatchell said. “She can fly down the court for easy layups or come off screens and make shots.”
UNC's fourth signee, Allisha Gray, would’ve likely been selected had she not been sidelined for the 2012-13 season with an ACL tear.
“I wish they could go off of her sophomore and junior stats because she deserves the recognition,” said Hatchell.
A 5-10 guard from Sandersville (Ga.) Washington County High School, Gray was named 2012 Gatorade State Player of the Year and won the Georgia Sportswriters Association Class AAA Player of the Year.
As a junior, she averaged 32.0 points, 8.2 rebounds, 5.0 steals, 3.4 assists and 2.4 blocks while leading Washington County to the Georgia 3A state championship game.
Fullcourt.com ranks Gray as the No. 11 player in class of 2013.
“It’s really disappointing that I won’t get to play, knowing that if I was 100 percent I’m confident I would’ve made it,” Gray said. “But the injury, It’s behind me now, I’ve accepted it. I can only look ahead and UNC is my main focus. I’m able to do some basketball activities, but I’m not released to go 100 percent yet. I’m just trying to get stronger so I can be ready for Chapel Hill this summer.”
Besides their on-the-court abilities, Hatchell said she’s most excited about the personalities of her heralded group of signees.
“They are extreme competitors,” she said. “All four of them are used to winning championships. So much on this level is the mentality you have, and they are all about winning.
“They’ll set the bar extremely high (for playing time) next year,” Hatchell continued. “They’ll push the other kids that are still here, but the best ones are going to play. We’ll start as many freshmen as earn it. It’s going to be hard to keep them off the floor.”
In addition to their competitiveness, DeShields said the signees’ genuine fondness for each other should help them on the court in the fall.
“A lot of people enter the college environment with freshmen they aren’t as close with or they might not have as tight a relationship with,” said DeShields. “But these girls are like my sisters. We talk and text every day and I think that’s going to help with the chemistry of it all.
“We’re going to develop, mature and grow as young women together in Chapel Hill. I wouldn’t want to do it with any other group of girls because they are so great.”