Lady Vols' stars 'did their homework' in choice to return [video]

Tennessee coach Holly Warlick calls a play during a women's college basketball regional semifinal against Ohio State in the NCAA Tournament in Sioux Falls, S.D., Friday, March 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Holly Warlick did not tell Diamond DeShields and Mercedes Russell that they needed to return to Tennessee for their senior seasons.

"I said, 'I'd like for you to stay'," Warlick told reporters at a news conference Thursday on the UT campus.

In the end, they did. Tennessee's top two scorers each announced recently that they are returning to the Lady Vols' program, instead of heading to the WNBA.

Both are receiving their undergraduate degrees in May and enrolling in graduate level courses to stay eligible, Warlick said.

"They got facts and they were knowledgable about what they were looking for, and they both decided to stay," Warlick said. "I'm really, obviously, excited that they are. It's a great thing when these young ladies make a decision on their own."

Russell a 6-foot-6 center, averaged 16.1 points and 9.7 rebounds per game for the Lady Vols this year, while DeShields, a 6-foot-1 guard, poured in 17.4 points.

Tennessee lost to Louisville in the second round of the NCAA Tournament and finished the season 20-12.

The Lady Vols defeated both national finalists - Mississippi State and South Carolina - during the regular season. But they struggled with consistency throughout the year, amid injuries and a general lack of depth.

Tennessee is welcoming the nation's top recruiting class to its roster for the 2017-18 season.

Anastasia Hayes, Kasi Kushkituah, Rennia Davis and Evina Westbrook will insulate the Lady Vols' roster next season.

Warlick saw all four of them on the court together at the March 29 McDonald's All-American Game in Chicago.

Three days later, DeShields announced on Instagram that she is returning. Russell announced her return in a March 25 Instagram post.

"I think they want to get better, and I think they want the opportunity to work with our four new freshmen coming," Warlick said. "I think it was a lot of factors that went into it," Warlick said. "I was really glad that they did their homework and didn't react at the end of our season.

"They did their due diligence, and I think they made an educated decision for them."