Shoni and Jude Schimmel: Why they kick ass

  • Shoni and Jude Schimmel are are indispensable members for The Louisville Cardinal women’s basketball team, and are also tribal members of the Confederated Tribe of Umatilla Indians. They are also the only American Indians to ever play in a NCAA Division 1 basketball title game.
  • When she was a junior in high school, Shoni was the subject of a documentary entitled Off the Rez, as she attempted to become the first from her reservation to gain an athletic scholarship. she succeeded, and her sister followed in her footsteps, even winning the Elite 89 award earlier in the tournament, a distinction given to the top student-athlete participating at each NCAA championship site. 
  • They’ve become inspirations to thousands around the country, while only  three years ago Shoni and Jude were budding superstars at Franklin High School in Southeast Portland; two teenagers with flash and flair who left the reservation and talked about setting a positive example for young Natives.
  • Shoni and Jude commanded attention throughout the tournament, leading Louisville to a shocking win over No. 1 Baylor, considered the biggest upset in tournament history. ESPN showed pictures of a young Shoni and Jude in full tribal wear, as fans across the country became familiar with their backstory.
  • The fifth-seeded Cardinals were the lowest seed in history to play in a title game and with most of their players back, they will be a Top 5 team next season. "Without a doubt, this is going down as one of the greatest runs in women’s basketball,"

check out how gorgeous Umatilla sisters Shoni & Jude Schimmel look with their Louisville Cardinals teammates at the ESPYs! for those that are woefully behind, the Schimmel sisters are two of Indian Country’s rising basketball stars—their team is the runner-up NCAA women’s champion.

OMG. Shoni and Jude stayed until about 1000 people lined up for autographs. Each got one! CONGRATULATIONS LOUISVILLE CARDINALS!!! 2013 Preseason WNIT Champions! Umatilla thrillas took down the Oklahoma Sooners in overtime. Shoni and Jude are our champions and we will continue to follow them all the way to the 2014 NCAA Women’s Championship. #5 National Rating. 5-0 and on a roll. GO LADY CARDS!!! (Shoni & the Elk Soldier drum group pictured)

Mission, Oregon—April 9, 2013— Basketball has long been the most popular sport on Native American reservations, but Oregon sisters Shoni and Jude Schimmel, who belong to Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla in Eastern Oregon, may take the sport to a new level after they led Louisville to the national title game. About two hours before the tip off, kids on the reservation were playing ball and talking about the sisters’ accomplishments on what is known as Shaydin’s Hoop on Walla Walla Court. Photo by Jamie Francis/The Oregonian

Off The Rez.

It’s about the Schimmels. They’re cool.

Keep an eye out for me- I played with them soph and senior year.  I was also very bad at basketball, but Ceci absolutely made me better. Anyway, it’s a really cool story and I really respect them as a family and Ceci as a coach. She’s fabulous. Shoni is obviously an incredible basketball player, considering she starts for Louisville as a freshman. But yeah, watch it.

NPR Article

NEW ORLEANS — When Louisville’s Shoni Schimmel whipped a no-look, behind-the-back bounce pass to younger sister Jude for a fast-break layup in the women’s Final Four, former WNBA player Ryneldi Becenti was on a Native American reservation watching on TV — and grinning at the sight of a free-wheeling style of basketball she knows quite well.  

"It’s funny," said Becenti, a former Arizona State star in the 1990s who played a season for the Phoenix Mercury and then professionally in Europe. "You can see the ‘rez ball’ in them. … She threw it behind the back, already knew where her sister was, and they don’t hesitate to do it."  

Louisville’s string of upsets in the NCAA tournament — they’ve knocked off Baylor, Tennessee and California in succession — has been followed closely by Native Americans nationwide because of the captivating play of the Schimmel sisters, who grew up on a reservation in Oregon.  

The sisters, who played at Franklin High School in Southeast Portland, are getting a lot of mainstream attention now, and relishing it because it helps them promote the idea that there are great young athletes on reservations around the country who deserve a look.  

In a sense, they aim to be female versions of Boston Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, and follow in the footsteps of legendary Native American athlete Jim Thorpe, an Olympic gold medalist and football player in the early 1900s.  

On Monday, the eve of Louisville’s national title showdown with Connecticut, Shoni Schimmel noted that her mother brought her and her siblings up on stories about Thorpe, and that her older brother made Thorpe the subject of a school presentation.  

"One thing that my mom has talked to me about is, you have to go out there and show that you can come off a reservation and you can make it," Schimmel said. "Not a lot of people believe in Native Americans because they just get so comfortable with living on the reservation, because it is very comfortable. We love it there. It’s always nice to be there. But at the same time, you have to get out of your comfort zone."  

As their reputations have grown, the Schimmel sisters have met fellow Native Americans at games far and wide. Sometimes, their fans have driven hours to see them play, hoping to meet them. They’re rarely disappointed.  

The sisters chat with fans after games whenever they can, and recalled two such instances this season at DePaul and Syracuse.  

"We know how much they drove," Shoni Schimmel said. "We know how exciting it is for them, but it’s also an honor and a privilege for us."  

The whole family is in New Orleans for the Final Four, and during the tournament they have become magnets for fans with Native American backgrounds.  

"They figure out where we’re sitting and come and see us, take pictures and talk," said the sisters’ mother, Cici, adding that some fans she’s met traveled from Mississippi, Oklahoma, Montana and Canada.  

The tournament has been an eventful one for the family. Cici and Rick Schimmel, who’ve been together more than two decades and have eight children between the ages of 24 and 3, vowed to finally get married if Louisville shocked Baylor in the Oklahoma Region semifinals, which they did, thanks in part of the sisters combining for seven 3s.  

The marriage occurred in Oklahoma City while the sisters were at practice the day before they beat Tennessee, but they’ve seen a video of it.  

"It didn’t seem realistic," Shoni Schimmel said. "It kind of seemed like something you’re just watching like, ‘Oh, that’s cute.’ But it’s like, ‘Oh, that’s our parents.’"  

Jude said she and Shoni were thrilled that their stellar play led directly to the marriage given how much time their parents had devoted to help them succeed in basketball.  

Basketball is wildly popular on reservations.  

The Schimmels grew up on the Umatilla reservation until about five years ago, when the family moved to an Oregon community nearby.  

But while the sisters left the comfort of the reservation, they did not leave behind the artistic style of play with which they felt comfortable.  

Shoni Schimmel will take — and make — shots from all over the court that sometimes look ad-libbed, including well behind the three-point line. She developed her range in the family drive way, sometimes so late at night that her parents urged her to stop so the sound of the bouncing ball wouldn’t annoy neighbors.  

But the “rez ball” comes out more when the sisters are on the court together.  

"It’s just magic when those two are on the court," said Don Wetzel, who operates the Montana Indian Athletic Hall of Fame. "It’s tough to play rez ball when there’s just one of you."  

The sisters learned basketball mostly from their mother, who played through high school and a couple years in junior college. Their father, Rick, who is white, also was an athlete, though more of a baseball player, playing one season at Stanford.  

Rick Schimmel said he’s taken a liking to the style of basketball on reservations.  

"There’s a freedom to go out and be creative and showcase athleticism, skill," he said. "They make it fun."  

One of the reasons the sisters chose to play at Louisville is because coach Jeff Walz was willing to foster their creativity rather than stunt it by yanking them from games if an attempt at razzle-dazzle fizzled.  

"Some coaches think I’m crazy, but I want them to go out there and have fun," Walz said this week.   

Back in New Mexico, on the eastern Navajo Reservation, Becenti watches the Schimmels and hopes more major college coaches are as well.  

"Right now they’re making such a statement on the court, I hope it’s opening the eyes of other coaches who say, ‘Hey, we’ve got to scout these reservations,’" she said.  

Shoni and Jude have five younger siblings who play basketball, including one girl, 13-year-old Milan, who is 5-foot-6 and left-handed. Milan hopes to play in college, and might find more than Walz tracking her development.  

Earlier this week, UConn coach Geno Auriemma called Shoni and Jude two of the most exciting players in women’s college basketball, adding: “what they’ve done … has had everyone stand up and take notice of these two kids and the joy they play with, the fearlessness that they play with.”  

Then, Auriemma added, “I gotta get a couple of those players for myself.”