Shoni Schimmel, once the star high school basketball player of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Oregon, started her first season at the University of Louisville on fire.
Schimmel was recently named Big East Freshman of the Week at the college for the fourth time this season. She scored in double-figures for the 18th-straight game, the longest streak by a University of Louisville freshman over the past 20 seasons. Breaking records, getting awards and earning prestigious basketball titles is nothing new for the 18-year-old, 5'10 point guard.
She earned first team all-state honors and first team all-conference honors all four years of high school, and was named the Oregon 5A Player of the Year her freshman and sophomore seasons and the Oregon 6A Player of the Year her junior season. Despite changing schools (she played her first two years at Hermiston High, then moved to Franklin High) and suffering an ankle injury that forced her to miss 13 games her junior year, she finished her high school career with 2,120 points ranking her sixth on the all-time list. Her senior year she scored 805 points, the third-highest single-season total ever in Oregon. She also led her Franklin team, who hadn't been to the state tournament since 1988, to the quarterfinals, under head coach Ceci Moses, her mother. Her 121 three-pointers is still the state record. She was selected to the 2010 WBCA All-American Team and was ranked as the No. 8 player in the nation by HoopGurlz, ESPN’s woman’s basketball ranking system, who ranked her the third best point guard in the class of 2010. Schimmel was also named a first team Parade All-American.
It’s beyond the stats, however, when it comes to Schimmel. She is electric on the court. Upon signing Schimmel to the Cardinals, the University of Louisville team, the head coach, Jeff Walz, said, "Shoni is one of the most dynamic players in the women's game and will no doubt be the subject of endless highlight reels. She is the perfect complement to our already highly ranked recruiting class. Shoni can play many guard positions and is a master at getting other people involved in the game. Her passion for the game is unparalleled."
"Schimmel continues to surprise and delight fans with behind the back passes and deep three pointer shots just like she did in high school. In December, Walz told The Oregonian, "The casual fan now is interested in coming because with Shoni it's, 'What's she going to do with the ball next?”
Even Schimmel's great grandmother, Delores Moses, told ESPN, "Watching Shoni, I'm just like everybody else, wondering what she's going to do next."
Schimmel attributes her skills and fearless attitude to growing up and playing on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in eastern Oregon. She told the Courier Journal that since the age of 2 she had a basketball in her hands and that the nightly games on the reservation were as competitive as they come. For years she played with her older brother Shae and friends.
According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association's, the NCAA, 2010 Student-Athlete Race and Ethnicity Report, only 28 of the more than 9,000 Division I basketball players in the 2009-2010 season were American Indian or Alaskan Natives, including 15 women. Her father, Rick Schimmel, told ESPN that many NCAA programs are afraid to take risks with American Indian athletes because they worry that they will not go on to be successful students because they will long for home and to be back with their people.
But Schimmel said in an interview with The Oregonian, "I'm going to do my best to prove to Native Americans that they can do it, they can leave home and be OK." Schimmel told The Courier-Journal “There's so many Native Americans that coulda-shoulda-woulda but didn't do anything. It's almost sickening how much talent is (on the reservation). I am very proud of who I am and where I came from, but I wanted to be one of the ones that made it out. My job is to play basketball, and I love doing it.”
So far into her college career Schimmel has lived up to the pressure and expectations. From across the country she has the support of her friends and family and even has a facebook group, Shoni Schimmel is the Best Girl Basketball player Alive!!!
“People call us all the time and say they're watching her, and that's neat,” said her mother, Ceci Moses to The Courier-Journal. “Everybody knows everybody (on the reservation), and they're watching Shoni. They said they call her the Umatilla Thriller.”
Currently, Schimmel is second on the Cardinals in scoring, averaging 16 points a game and leads the team in assists with 5.6 per game. Schimmel will surely be a player worth watching in the upcoming Big East Tournament in March.