Hatchell: Star freshman DeShields leaving UNC
North Carolina star freshman Diamond DeShields plans to transfer, coach Sylvia Hatchell said Thursday.
In a statement from the school, Hatchell said she did not know "or understand" why DeShields was leaving. Hatchell, who was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame before the season, didn't coach this year as she focused on treatment for leukemia that is in remission.
"It breaks my heart that I will not have the opportunity to coach Diamond and help develop her on and off the court," Hatchell said. "I love her and wish her well."
It's unclear when DeShields notified Hatchell of her plan to leave, which was first reported by The Herald-Sun of Durham, or where she plans to go next. Hatchell did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press for comment, while DeShields did not immediately respond to an email Thursday afternoon.
DeShields' departure is a shock for a program that relied on a young core to win 27 games and reach an NCAA tournament regional final before falling at Stanford. With DeShields back next year, North Carolina would've been a strong contender for the national title.
A 6-foot-1 guard from Norcross, Ga., DeShields led the team by averaging 18 points. She was honored as the Atlantic Coast Conference freshman of the year after finishing with a league single-season freshman record 648 points. Her all-around game included being able to drive, shoot the 3 and play tough defense.
The daughter of former major leaguer Delino DeShields played her best ball late in the season. That included a week in February when she had 30 points in UNC's first win at Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium since 2008 and a school freshman-record 38 points — 27 after halftime — in a victory at North Carolina State.
DeShields was the top player in a heralded recruiting class featuring four top-25 recruits, including Allisha Gray, Stephanie Mavunga and Jessica Washington. Gray averaged nearly 14 points as a complementary scorer to DeShields, while rising junior Xylina McDaniel (11.3 points, 5.8 rebounds) was also returning for a team that had no seniors.