All-SEC basketball honors for three lady vols

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The SEC released its women’s basketball awards Tuesday on the eve of the league tournament, and each member of Tennessee’s “Big Three” was voted to the 2017 Coaches All-SEC Team.

Redshirt junior Diamond DeShields garnered first-team accolades, while junior Jaime Nared and redshirt junior Mercedes Russell were selected to the second team. It was the first time any of the trio had been selected to the coaches squad. DeShields made the AP’s All-SEC Second Team last season and was an All-ACC First Team choice as a true freshman in 2013-14 while playing at North Carolina.

Tennessee and Texas A&M were the only schools to put three players on the all-league team. All three Aggies, though, were second-team honorees. This marks the first time UT has put three on the Coaches All-SEC squad since Glory Johnson (first team), Shekinna Stricklen (first team) and Meighan Simmons (second team) made the cut during the 2010-11 season.

DeShields, a 6-foot-1 guard from Norcross, Ga., leads Tennessee and ranks fourth in the SEC in scoring at 17.3 points per game. That average is the highest by a Lady Vol since Candace Parker put up 21.3 per game in 2007-08. She also ranks sixth in the league in assists (3.6 apg.), ninth in free throw percentage (.798), 12th in field goal percentage (.428) and blocked shots (1.0 bpg.), and 15th in rebounding (6.6) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.0).

Starting 25 of 26 games this season, DeShields has scored in double figures 23 times, tallying 20 or more points on 10 occasions and a season-high 34 vs. Georgia. She has posted five double-doubles, nearly missing a triple-double vs. Florida by one assist, and has led UT in assists on 13 occasions and in scoring nine times.

Russell, a 6-foot-6 center from Springfield, Ore., is Tennessee’s second-leading scorer at 16.3 per game and leading rebounder at 9.4 per contest. Those averages rank her ninth and fourth, respectively among league players. Her numbers are the best by a true center at UT since Daedra Charles (17.3/9.2) in 1990-91.

Her .571 field goal percentage is fifth in the league, her 1.4 blocks per game are fourth and her 34.4 minutes per game rank sixth. She is the SEC leader in double-doubles this season with 16, a total that ranks as the second-most ever by a Lady Vol junior, and has scored in double figures in 27 of 28 games, including five with 20 or more points.

Nared, a 6-2 forward from Portland, Ore., is Tennessee’s third-leading scorer at 15.6 per game and second-leading rebounder at 6.7 per contest. Those marks rank her 12th and 14th in the SEC, respectively. She also leads the league in free throw percentage at .884 and is ninth in the league in minutes played at 34.1 per game.

She is second on the team in double-doubles, posting seven this season, including four straight in late November/early December. She has recorded seven games of 20 or more points, including a career-best 30-point effort in a win over #3/2 Mississippi State on Sunday. Nared also turned in game-winning plays in victories over #4 South Carolina and #6 Notre Dame.

The UT juniors are the highest scoring trio among NCAA Power 5 conferences and give the Lady Vols their highest scoring group since the triumvirate of Chamique Holdsclaw (23.5), Tamika Catchings (18.2) and Semeka Randall (15.9) in 1997-98.

DeShields, Nared and Russell will join their teammates at the SEC Tournament this week, as they begin play on Thursday in Greenville, S.C., in the second round. The No. 5 seed Lady Vols will face the winner of the Alabama-Vanderbilt game at 2:30 p.m. ET., with SEC Network providing the telecast.

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