The Lady Vols 2018-19 season opener is months away and Holly Warlick is in the finishing stages of completing her roster. This is typically the slowest period of the year for Lady Vol news so I’m going to take this time to forecast the impact of three former Lady Vols in the WNBA. These ladies are each entering their first season in the WNBA, though one has ventured overseas to play professionally in Turkey. I expect all three to have a positive impact, but in various degrees for their respective teams.
Coming out of high school, Mercedes Russell drew comparisons to Candace Parker. That was high praise, but she fell short of the lofty expectations put on her as a Lady Vol. Chronic foot injuries that required surgery on both feet to repair forced her to miss the entire 2014-15 season, but she overcame that to have a stellar college career.
She is the sixth Lady Vol to record 1,500 points 1,000 rebounds and finished her career averaging roughly 12 points and 8 rebounds. Holly Warlick referred to Russell as “a point guard trapped in a post player’s body.” Russell will have to use that guard mentality and work on her game outside the paint in order to find success in New York.
The Liberty have two centers on the roster who both have the more traditional style of play at center. Russell can earn her keep by using her 6-6 size to knock down mid and long-range jump shots. Her defense must improve as well. Given time to grow, she will be a contributor in the NBA for years to come.
G/F - Jaime Nared, Las Vegas Aces
Jaime Nared was my favorite player to watch on the 2017-18 Lady Vols. She was the grease that moved the gears. She seemed to always make the correct basketball play and was rarely out of position.
“If I am going to go to war, I’m taking Jaime Nared with me... She just knows what needs to be done.” That quote is from Holly Warlick and exhibits the trust and belief she has in Nared.
Coach Laimbeer of the Aces likes to employ big players at all positions and at 6-2, Nared is a position-less player who can succeed in any spot he needs her to play. The Aces are full of tall, athletic players and Nared will become a perfect fit. She was drafted into a great situation with a successful coach who will lead a system designed for her talents. I believe Jaime Nared becomes the best pro of the three mentioned here because of her desire to win and high basketball I.Q.
G – Diamond DeShields, Chicago Sky
Diamond DeShields is the best player of the three and I have no qualms about stating that. Her non-traditional path to the WNBA is a benefit to her career outlook because of the year in Turkey she spent playing against professionals. DeShields caught much flak for stating that she would return to Tennessee for her senior year, only to renege and head for Turkey. I believe one must travel the path they are most comfortable with and that is exactly what she did.
Now, in the WNBA she stands to be an eventual starter for the Sky and make an immediate, substantial contribution. Chicago will eventually rely on her and she will have to prove herself and her ability to lead a team. Time, and actions, will tell if her perceived instability is fact or just the process of a young woman finding her way.