It’s every high school senior’s wish to play immediately when they arrive at college.
Jessica Diamond was no different four years ago when she came to Wichita State and instantly became a primary scorer on the basketball team. The Shockers badly needed a pure scorer and Diamond was just that. Her crossover and pull-up jumper still remain effective after four years in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Diamond became a two-time All-Valley pick because WSU’s offense revolved around her and her scoring ability.
But as Wichita State has made its march its first NCAA Tournament appearance, which will be this Saturday against Texas A&M, Diamond has been relegated to the bench and has seen her shots and scoring dwindle.
And Diamond is OK with it.
“This is the way I always wanted it to be,” a beaming Diamond said. “It’s nice to have the ball in your hands and to score a lot, but I’d rather have people around me that are great offensively. It opens up a lot more things. I believe that’s what has made this team stand out from past years because everybody on this team can score.”
In the nine non-conference games in which Diamond attempted double-digit shot attempts, Wichita State was 3-6.
WSU coach Jody Adams didn’t need a pie chart to recognize the issue.
“We didn’t want it all to depend on Jessy,” Adams said. “We want to share the ball and we’ve done a better job of that as the season has progressed. What’s happened has been other players have developed around her, which has made us a more solid team.”
It used to be Diamond had to take close to 15 shots for WSU to contend. Now she’s settled into a role where she’s comfortable taking closer to half that total. After accounting for 21 percent of the shots in the non-conference slate, Diamond’s share is down to 18.5 percent in MVC play.
Thank-you cards can be sent to sophomore Alex Harden and freshman Michaela Dapprich, who have emerged and made the opposition throw out the scouting reports on WSU.
Harden has averaged 14.6 points in 21 games against MVC competition and Dapprich is averaging 16.4 points in five March games. Having a scorer with the pedigree of Diamond as a third option has come in handy.
“We have so many more people that can score now,” senior Chynna Turner said. “It’s kind of nice because it takes pressure off us and it opens the floor up.”
Diamond, Turner and Jazimen Gordon — the three four-year seniors — carried a large production load the last three seasons. But all three have seen their averages dip this season.
It’s not because they’re regressing.
“We’re allowing ourselves to play off each other a lot better now,” Harden said. “We’re all moving and we’re all looking to score, so Jessy doesn’t have to do everything and we’re not just standing there watching her shoot.”
Instead of having one dominant scorer, WSU has two in Harden and Diamond, and another developing in Dapprich. Throw in Gordon, Turner and sharpshooter Darice Fountaine and the Shockers have more options than ever to score.
“We’re a very versatile team,” Adams said. “We’ve become more fluid as the year has gone along. I can only imagine if we had (injured) Alie Decker in uniform.…”
Diamond has a piece of advice for all those seniors thinking they need to score wherever they go.
Scoring a lot of points is nice, but winning is better.
“I’ll take that any day,” Diamond said.