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.

DREAMCATCHER : How does the shortest player on any basketball court she’s ever been on become a national celebrity and play in the NCAA Division I women’s basketball title game? Jude Schimmel’s Dreamcatcher will tell you.

Jude is an unusual young woman, thoughtful and mature beyond her years (her autobiography is dropping at the tender age of 21 for her). Her life story is inspirational to thousands of young women, especially Native American youth. You can see why young people light up around Jude. She tells them, in short, clear, punchy declarative sentences, how she did it. And in the second half of the book, she tells out her life lessons, in order to encourage other young people to succeed too, rehearsing key concepts like integrity, work ethic, personal health and the like. She also takes the time to write a sweet essay singing the praises of Native American culture in general. Jude Schimmel is an admirable person.

Jude’s story fits, with a few tugs and pulls, into a classic American success story of pulling yourself up by the bootstraps. Learning what’s right and wrong from mom and dad, working your butt off, dreaming big and a little native stubbornness were Jude’s road to athletic and academic success at the University of Louisville. Always being in the shadow of big sister Shoni doesn’t seem to bother Jude at all. Far from sibling rivalry, she clearly adores her sister and may go to work for her once she gets her master’s degree from Louisville.

Of course, Jude’s story deviates from the Jack Armstrong all-American success because she is Native American and spent her early years on the remote, remote Umatilla Reservation in Oregon. Jude has nothing but fondness, though, for her rez days and her Native upbringing.

On her life on the Umatilla res: “Reservation life was extremely simple and comfortable to my family and me. On my reservation everyone knew everyone else. There really wasn’t such a thing as a stranger.”

The family house: “It was a really really small house. And I come from a very big family. At any time we would have up to eleven family members living in our house on Cottonwood Lane in Oregon. I never thought twice about the size of our house, or the number of people I shared it with, it was all that we needed—and it was home.”

Jude is one of eight siblings of a Native American mother and white father. Both parents were good athletes, though it is clear Jude gets her drive and determination from her mother, who picked up the family and moved it to urban Portland to take a coaching job and push her talented daughters into the way of bigtime players like Candace Parker and scouts from colleges all over the country (Jude ended up getting 25 scholarship offers). Despite the family house getting foreclosed on, Jude in her senior year averaged 28.4 points per game. Here’s a telling trait for Jude: despite her slight size, her favorite sport was volleyball.

In case you think all the doors automatically opened for her, Jude relates a story about how a handwritten note was delivered to her house shortly after the family moves to Portland. It said “Go back to the fucking reservation.” She also had a tough time her freshman year at Louisville, feeling homesick and battling with coaches about her playing time.

Things got better after that, with Jude and Shoni becoming heroes and role models all across Indian country after the movie about them, Off the Rez, was made. Many people (including this writer) drove hundreds of miles to see her play, and despite Shoni’s showtime personality, it was Jude’s steadiness that cemented those Cardinals teams. On Louisville’s Native American appreciation night “I never imagined that we would have an additional 12,000 fans who were predominantly Native American attend that game at the KFC Yum! Center to show their support of Shoni and me.”

Jude has spoken to more than forty tribes across the country to deliver her message of hope and inspiration to Native kids. In a nutshell, here’s Jude’s formula: “I simply was raised right, worked hard in school and on the court, and gave back everything I could to my Native American people.”

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)

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

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