Second-year Chicago Sky guard and first-time All-Star Diamond DeShields was crowned champion of the WNBA All-Star Skills Challenge Friday at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, showcasing her athleticism in a head-to-head, bracket-style tournament that hadn’t been featured in the league’s All-Star weekend since 2010.
DeShields, who will be making her All-Star game debut Saturday, defeated Minnesota Lynx guard Odyssey Sims in the first round by firing a perfect pass and nailing her lone three-point attempt. Meanwhile, Sky point guard Courtney Vandersloot, beat Seattle Storm guard-forward Sami Whitcomb, potentially setting her on a collision course toward a finals matchup against her own teammate.
In the semifinals, DeShields again advanced, easily blowing past Elizabeth Williams of the Atlanta Dream, who lost control of the ball early in the round.
Vandersloot, however, was in the lead until a missed three-pointer got her eliminated by the Connecticut Sun’s Jonquel Jones. The league’s leader in assists, Vandersloot ranks seventh all-time in the category and will be making her second WNBA All-Star game appearance on Saturday. She was competing in the Skills Challenge on behalf of Family Promise of Spokane, which is located near the point guard’s hometown in Washington.
In the final round, DeShields failed to connect on two consecutive passes and fell behind but was able to catch up with her speed. As Jones, who leads the league in rebounds and blocks per game and ranks second in double-doubles this season, leisurely missed her three-point shot, DeShields launched a deep ball of her own, and it swished in, making DeShields the Skills Contest champion.
In winning the competition, DeShields has earned $10,000 for Hoops20 – Water Boys, a charity she chose that raises funds and awareness for clean water initiatives in East Africa. The foundation was started by Indiana Pacers point guard Malcolm Brogdon and counts several other professional basketball players among its chief fundraisers.
“I just wanted to win,” DeShields said. “I wanted to get the money and get the check for the foundation, which was really important to me, because it’s a foundation for one of my close friends. Just playing for somebody else it meant more. I didn’t want to just give up in the end when I went down.”
DeShields entered the All-Star break averaging 15.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.27 steals per game for the Sky and has been an integral part of the team’s success. She leads Chicago in points this season and has led the team in scoring in seven of its first 18 games. DeShields has been the Sky’s leading rebounder in four games this season and is tied with Vandersloot for most minutes played per game on the team. On the road against Dallas on July 14, DeShields poured in 10 of her season-high 26 points in the fourth quarter.
As for beating out seven other competitors in the Skills Competition, including WNBA veterans such as Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner, DeShields said it simply comes natural.
“I think that it’s just been a common trend in my life, always playing up and playing with people bigger and older,” DeShields said. “But tonight was just a lot of fun… It was just fun.”