COVINGTON, Ga. — Diamond Swift has learned the art of picking and choosing the proper times to be silent and to be vocal.
When Swift matriculated through her sophomore season at Rockdale where she led the Lady Bulldogs in scoring with 12 points per game, she was, despite her youth, a team leader. There were times she felt like she had to carry the load for her team.
But when the 5-foot-5 combo guard showed up to a Newton program that had six seniors returning, including an all-state caliber backcourt in Lexii Chatman and Jurnee Smith, Swift realized it was a time to be silent and learn.
“The seniors who will be leaving this year played such a big role in me becoming a better player,” Swift said. “I wanted to come to Newton because I felt they took basketball more seriously like I wanted to. Since being here, I learned more moves, worked on the things I was weak at, and just playing against better players made me a better player.
“Instead of carrying a team, this time I had a lot of help. I wasn’t really used to that.”
Swift was also a big help, and by the end of the season turned into a key cog and fairly reliable third scoring option for Chatman and Smith as the Lady Rams captured the Region 8-AAAAAAA title and played for their first state championship in 55 years.
She averaged close to double figures, but was a defensive warrior. And when her spot-up and catch-and-shoot game was on, Newton coach Tiffani Johnson often raved throughout the course of the season about how it added a whole new dimension to the Rams’ team.
Speaking of new dimensions, Swift will soon find herself back in that vocal leadership role again, as the departure of most of Newton’s offense opens up a scoring chasm for the 2018-19 Newton squad that could be Swift’s to fill.
“I know I’ll have to step up,” Swift said. “Coach Johnson tells me that all my actions on and off the court are going to show that I’m a leader, and the kind of leader I’m going to be. Everything I do I have to think about the 13 other people behind me. It’s a big role, and I’m going to do my best to come at it from a positive direction instead of a negative direction.”
Swift’s already started easing into it. She’s been vocal on social media about her progress with her AAU team, the WP Celtics, sharing on Twitter the team’s progress in a four-game stint in Louisville, Ky.
Headed to Louisville Ky to my next AAU tournament. You can try but you can never stop my hustle. Striving for Greatness #ballerlife #itdontstop @CovNewsSports @LadyRamzHoops @ClubOrange2021 @WPCeltics @wpceltics2024— Diamond Swift (@ballingswift) April 20, 2018
We went 2-2 in Louisville,” she said. “The first game we won, and the second game we didn’t play as a team, so we lost. We won the third and the last one we lost because, well, we’re a short team and there was a pretty big height difference.”
But Swift says she was pleased with the way she played, particularly on defense.
“My offense wasn’t really there, though,” she acknowledged.
But whatever she displayed, it apparently was good enough to draw attention from college coaches. Swift a coach from Indiana State made contact with Johnson about Swift, which had the rising senior feeling optimistic.
“For the performance, when I know I could do better, it made me feel good to know that a coach was interested in me,” she said. “Because I know that when I reach my expectation and get my offense together, I can get more looks.”
But for now, Swift is looking mainly toward improving her own game so that she can be an even bigger boon for what could be a talented returning bunch of players, including rising seniors Jada Franklin and Rachel Hilliard, and promising sophomore Je-nya Smith.
And Swift says she plans to channel the spirit and example of the this year’s seniors when it comes time to chase region and state championships next year.
“These seniors worked hard all the time,” Swift said. “They had heart. They never gave up and never got frustrated. They had good character, and I feel kind of like the same group of girls leaving is the same group of girls coming. I think they have the same mindset. And as long as we follow the same example these girls who are leaving set for us, it shouldn’t be too hard to build up to what we want to be.”