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Busy summer schedule should help Lady Vols' Diamond DeShields adapt to her new teammates

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KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee guard Diamond DeShields can't help but show the signs of her layoff in certain situations.

As the North Carolina transfer began a media session Thursday, DeShields didn't know whether to sit or stand. DeShields later asked whether she was supposed to hold a microphone that was in a television reporter's hand.

"It's been a while," DeShields acknowledged.

A busy summer should help assure that DeShields isn't nearly as rusty when she gets back on the floor with her new teammates after sitting out the 2014-15 season due to NCAA transfer rules.

DeShields heads to Colorado next week to begin training for the World University Games, which takes place July 4-13 in Gwangju, South Korea. Lady Vols center Mercedes Russell also is part of the U.S. team's roster, and Tennessee's Holly Warlick is an assistant coach.

The former Atlantic Coast Conference rookie of the year will work alongside the rest of her new teammates in August when the Lady Vols play three exhibition games in Italy.

"It's great that we can get some runs in before we actually start to play our scheduled games (for Tennessee)," said DeShields, who has three seasons of eligibility remaining. "It will be very helpful just seeing where you're at, playing some of the top talent in the world."

DeShields averaged 18 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.7 steals per game while her freshman year at North Carolina. She transferred after the season and landed at Tennessee, where her mother once starred in track and field.

The Lady Vols hope the 6-foot-1 guard adds star power to a team that hasn't produced a first-team or second-team Associated Press All-America selection since Candace Parker led Tennessee to a 2008 national title. That's also the last time Tennessee reached a Final Four.

"I think she'll fit right into a team and we'll understand that it's not just about Diamond and her talent," Warlick said. "It's about this team and how we're going to move forward as a group. I'm excited she's here. She's fit in very, very well."

DeShields practiced with her new teammates this past season while also using the year off to recover from some nagging injuries. The World University Games will represent the first time she has played in a game that counts since leaving North Carolina.

She's savoring the return to the court. DeShields got a chance to measure her progress during the World University Games tryouts.

"I just kept telling myself to do everything you can and try not to look bad," DeShields said. "Even though I was a little slower, I made up for it by just being talkative, trying to be a leader and encouraging people and just showing the committee members I was able to be a leader."

Tennessee also eagerly awaits the return of Russell, who redshirted this past season while recovering from surgeries on both her feet. Russell averaged 6.3 points and 5 rebounds per game in 2013-14 while dealing with her foot injuries.

Warlick says she already notices a "night and day" difference in the 6-6 center. Whereas Russell often lumbered up the floor as a freshman, Warlick saw her sprinting more often during World University Games tryouts.

"Mercedes is a huge talent," Warlick said. "We didn't know how bad her feet were (in 2013-14), actually we didn't know it was a factor until after the season when she told us. She got one fixed and realized how much pain she was playing in, so then she got the other fixed. I think she's playing pain free and she looks great."

DeShields says she also is feeling better from her time away. Now she just needs to shake off the rust.

"I think this year was much needed - much, much needed," DeShields said. "I'm stronger, getting faster. I'll be a much better Diamond come season time."

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PHOTO: FILE - In this Oct. 29, 2014, file photo, Tennessee's Diamond DeShields, left, and Jordan Reynolds pose during NCAA college basketball media dayin Knoxville, Tenn. After sitting out this past season as a transfer from North Carolina, DeShields is about to make up for lost time while adapting to her new teammates.(Saul Young/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP, File)

FILE - In this Oct. 29, 2014, file photo, Tennessee's Diamond DeShields, left, and Jordan Reynolds pose during NCAA college basketball media dayin Knoxville, Tenn. After sitting out this past season as a transfer from North Carolina, DeShields is about to make up for lost time while adapting to her new teammates.(Saul Young/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP, File)

 

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