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It's a home game for the Schimmels

Louisville players eager to see family, fans as team plays Pilots
by: COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE 
Shoni Schimmel, former Franklin High star, was a freshman All-America selection last season for the Louisville Cardinals and returns as starting point guard. Louisville plays Saturday at the University of Portland.

On Saturday, the college edition of the Shoni and Jude Schimmel Show makes a stop in Portland.

The 2 p.m. game between 13th-ranked Louisville and the Portland Pilots at Chiles Center has been in the works since Jeff Walz, the Cardinals' coach, began recruiting Shoni a couple of years ago.

'If we're going to get players to come from different places, we're going to try to make sure that we get back that way at least once or twice during their careers,' Walz says.

Shoni and Jude -former stars at Franklin High -have been counting down the days for the UP game to arrive.

'We're thrilled to come home and see everybody,' Shoni says, 'and being able to play in front of them is exciting for both of us.'

When the Schimmels take the court, they will have fans from across the state in the crowd. The number of people who support the sisters is a testament to their ability to bridge a gap that often separates the general public from women's sports.

Growing up on the Umatilla Indian Reservation near Pendleton, the Schimmels also have become a symbol of hope for Native Americans, whose history has been littered with tragedy.

In 2008, the Schimmel family moved to Southeast Portland and built a new following who loved watching both the flashy ball skills of Shoni and the heart and hustle that Jude brought to the court.

Jefferson football coach Anthony Stoudamire was just one of many people with no real connection to the Schimmels who attended Franklin games.

'It was a ton of fun,' Stoudamire says. 'They did things with the basketball that some young men can't do. It was just a pleasure for me to watch them. Their passion for the game and the way they play just makes people want to come out and see them.'

Last year, as a true freshman at Louisville, Shoni was the starting point guard. She averaged 15.1 points and 4.9 assists per game. She was brilliant in the NCAA Tournament, leading Louisville into the Sweet 16 with 33 points in a come-from-behind, 85-75 win over Xavier.

Shoni missed the first two games this season for playing in a unsanctioned summer 3-on-3 tournament at the reservation.

'I've played in it my whole life,' she says. 'I just didn't really think about it. It was hard (being suspended by the NCAA), because I know I messed up. It wasn't fun watching my teammates on TV. But I learned from it.'

Since then, in eight games, the 5-9 floor leader is averaging 13.5 points, 4.8 assists and 4.3 rebounds, and Louisville was 8-2 going into a Wednesday game at Cincinnati.

Walz says Shoni has made a leap in her ability to run the point.

'I've seen a lot of progress and growth in her game,' Walz says. 'She's really doing a nice job of getting everyone else involved.'

Jude, 5-6, already is seeing significant playing time as a true freshman, averaging 15.8 minutes. During her senior season at Franklin, Jude scored 28.4 points. Playing point guard behind her sister, Jude has taken on a different role, being a passer first and focusing on defense. She is averaging 2.4 points and 2.8 assists.

'Jude is doing well,' Walz says. 'She's getting adjusted to the strength of the game and the quickness of it. She's going to have a very good freshman year.'

Shoni and Jude have been living together in a dorm that includes teammates Tia Gibbs and Sheronne Vails. Having her sister with her has helped Jude make the transition to college.

'If I have a problem, I can just go to Shoni and ask her what I should do because she's already been through it,' Jude says. 'Everything she went through as a freshman, I'm going through.'

And having Jude on the team has made Shoni even more comfortable at Louisville. 'During practice, it's fun to look over to your left and there's your sister,' Shoni says.

Shoni and Jude are also able to spend time with their father Rick Schimmel, who began working in Kentucky this year. Rick has tried to allow his daughters the chance to have their own college experience, but he loves being able to see them and watch them play.

'I've tried to leave them alone the best I can, because it's an important time for them to grow up,' Rick says. 'But at the same time, as a parent, it's been a blessing to get to watch them.'

When Louisville comes to play the 5-6 Pilots, Shoni and Jude will take advantage of the opportunity to spend time with their mother, Franklin girls basketball coach Ceci Moses, and their six other brothers and sisters.

'I'm really looking forward to getting to see my family again,' Jude says, 'and I'm looking forward to showing the west coast how good my team is.'

The children of an Indian mother and a white father, Shoni and Jude have always been aware of how much they mean to Native Americans. Moses says her daughters represent more than Native Americans, though.

'They're part white, so it's not just for natives,' Moses says. 'It's for all women of color and not of color. They represent Oregon women. A lot of people are very, very proud of them.'

St. Mary's Academy athletic director Anna Maria Lopez, an outstanding female athlete in the '70s and '80s who was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame, knows how hard it is for women to receive the kind of national recognition the Schimmels have obtained. She says that it is no wonder that people in Oregon have fallen in love with the Schimmel Show.

'For the state to have somebody who represents all of us, it gives us all a source of pride,' Lopez says. 'The maze to get to that end point, which the Schimmels have reached, has become so much tougher to navigate.

'Everybody likes to see someone succeed and achieve their dream. And, in their situation, it's a great representation of that occurring.'