When Keron DeShields committed to Montana in 2011, his goal was to get as far away from Baltimore as possible. But after three years of being 2,300 miles away, the former Pallotti and Towson Catholic guard said he’s looking forward to closing out his college career at Tennessee State in Nashville, where he’ll be able to make a much shorter trip home.
“It took me from Montana probably all day on the plane just to get home,” said DeShields, who signed with the Tigers earlier this month. “From Tennessee to home, it’s an hour-and-30-minute flight. I was far away from my mom. It’s going to be great for me and my mom. And my dad is getting out [of prison] soon. He doesn’t have an official date yet, but he’s coming out soon. That had a lot to do with my decision, with him and my grandfather” being sick.
Montana made the NCAA tournament during DeShields’ freshman and sophomore seasons. As a junior, the 6-foot-2, 177-pound guard averaged 11.8 points and 2.5 assists in 31 minutes per game, earning All-Big Sky honorable mention honors. Everything was seemingly going well for DeShields in Missoula. But the distance was wearing on him, and the coach who recruited him to Montana – Wayne Tinkle – turned out to be just weeks away from landing the Oregon State job.
“Me and him talked beforehand, and I wanted to go back [closer to] the East Coast,” DeShields said. Tinkle “thought that would be best for me as well. I learned as much as I can out there. It was a great experience, but I was getting kind of homesick out there.”
Though he has just one year of eligibility remaining, DeShields said several schools expressed interest in him to his representatives, including Drexel, Delaware and even Maryland. Tennessee State, however, was most serious in its pursuit of DeShields, who discovered that he had a handful of connections to the Ohio Valley Conference school.
“I was comfortable in the conference because one of my closest friends [Morehead State guard and fellow Baltimore native Kareem Storey] plays in the conference,” DeShields said. “I [also] talked to [Baltimore native] Daishon Knight from Illinois State, Josh Selby’s mom, and also Jesse Bopp, who handled my recruitment [at Vermont Academy]. All three of those people knew [Tennessee State coach] Dana Ford really well. Once I got the OK from those three people … it sealed the deal. I had to go into a situation where I trusted the coaches and really be able to finish out my senior year strong with a championship, and move on potentially to the pros. That’s where my mind is.”
DeShields, who plans to study sociology, will redshirt this season and then suit up for the Tigers as a senior during the 2015-16 campaign. He’ll join a Tennessee State squad that struggled mightily this year, finishing 5-25 overall and 4-12 in OVC play.
Ford “already told me, ‘I know you’re coming in with experience. You’re going to be our leader on and off the court. I want you to produce for me.’ We’ve got a pretty good relationship so far,” DeShields said. “It’s going to be great for me. I’ll sit out and get my degree and work on my master’s when I play. I’ll have two degrees. It’s going to be great. I’m going to keep going to get better.”
DeShields said he’s looking forward to being closer to his mother, his grandmother and his grandfather, in addition to his pending reunion with his father. He’s excited to start fresh at Tennessee State, and thankful for his time with the Grizzlies.
“It was nothing personal with Montana,” DeShields said. “Me and Coach Tinkle built a great relationship out there. It’s still the same relationship. Great dude, [and I] appreciate everything he’s done. That school was great for me.”