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Schimmels' sister act shoots for big finale

Former Franklin guards hope to lead another NCAA run


by: COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE - Sisters Shoni (right) and Jude Schimmel have been part of a potent Louisville Cardinals backcourt. Their journey began so long ago that neither Shoni nor Jude Schimmel can remember when it started.

They were little more than toddlers when they first stepped onto a basketball court together. Both played for Hermiston High and Franklin High. After their prep careers, they went to University of Louisville, where they helped the Cardinals reach the NCAA championship game last season.

It is now Shoni’s senior year and Jude’s junior year, and their journey is about to end. Before it does, though, the sisters will play in the NCAA Tournament, with one final shot at more greatness.

“I don’t like to think about never playing with my sister again,” Shoni says. “It’s sad, because we’ve played together for like 16 years. You never want it to end, because we’ve done it our whole lives.”

Shoni and Jude come from a family of eight children that is half-white, half-Native American. The sisters have had a feature length documentary made about them and are heroes in the Native American community. They’ve inspired others, including Sam McCloud, their childhood friend and former Franklin teammate who left the reservation and enrolled at Louisville.

“It’s awesome,” Jude says. “She’s been one of my best friends since I was in third grade, and she’s been in my life ever since then. Just to have her take that leap of leaving the reservation just to come to school with us, it’s a really good feeling.”

Coming out of high school, Shoni, a 5-9 guard, was renowned for her flashiness, ball-handling ability and long-range shooting. Over four years at Louisville, she has become a much more well-rounded player. This year, she is averaging 17 points, 3.6 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game.

“My game has matured from my freshman year,” Shoni says. “I’ve learned how to have better shot selection and read the defense better. I’ve learned a lot. But at the same time, I’m just playing basketball, so it comes naturally.”

Jude is two years younger than Shoni. She skipped a grade so she would have more time on the court with her sister. During her senior year at Franklin, without Shoni, Jude, a 5-7 point guard, was the Quakers’ go-to player. Since coming to Louisville, she has learned to accept more of a reserve role.

“I went from being the best player on my team in high school and having to do everything to college, where I had to accept that I’m not always going to have that big of a role,” Jude says. “That’s the biggest thing that’s changed about my game.”

Jude played well early in the 2013-14 season, sometimes starting as the Cardinals’ point guard. After winter break, though, she sprained her ankle and has since been trying to find her rhythm. She is averaging 5.2 points, 3.6 assists and 2.6 rebounds per game. She says she is much healthier heading into the NCAA tourney.

“I started the season off really well,” Jude says. “I was really happy with myself and the way I was playing. I’ve been in a rough spot for a while. I missed almost a whole month. My ankle still bothers me, but it has gotten a lot better. I’m probably at 98

percent.”

Led by Shoni and Jude and others, the Cardinals are 30-4 ranked No. 3 in the nation.

“Last year, we set the bar high, and our expectations haven’t gone down,” Jude says of the Cardinals. “Ever since I was little, I just wanted to win and be the best.”

by: COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE - Senior guard Shoni Schimmel, from Franklin High, has led Louisville into a high seed in the NCAA womens basketball tournament, after helping the Cardinals place second to UConn in last years tourney.Says Shoni: “We want to get back to the NCAA championship and win.”

The biggest thing in Louisville’s way is UConn. The No. 1-ranked Huskies, who beat Louisville in the title game last season, have continued to be kryptonite for the Cardinals. The undefeated Huskies have handed Louisville three of its losses, 81-64, 68-48 and 72-52.

However, the Cardinals are no strangers to playing against the odds. Last season, they ousted Baylor and superstar Brittney Griner from the tournament.   

“Nobody had really beat Baylor,” Shoni says. “Nobody expects us to beat UConn, so why can’t we go out there and beat UConn?”

To do so would take the game of the Cardinals’ lives, especially on defense.

“We don’t have to play a perfect offensive game,” Jude says. “We have to play a perfect defensive game. They’re beatable. They’re human. But they’re a very good team. In order for us to have a chance, we have to find a way to play a really, really great game on defense.

“You always look forward to that game against UConn because that’s the team we have to beat in order to win the national championship.”

Shoni says the Cardinals have learned from their losses to the Huskies.

“You learn something every time you play against them,” she says. “We have to put all the pieces together. Each game, we’re learning more and more how to do that. They’re a really good team. We have to be on our ‘A’ game and be smart the whole game. We have to play a collectively good 40 minutes of basketball as a team. We can’t let them take advantage of our mistakes, because they can easily go on a 10-0 run. We have to be smart and in the game.”

Jude will graduate this summer with a degree in sociology. She will continue playing at Louisville next year while she starts a masters program. “Maybe in business,” she says, “but I’m not sure.”

Shoni will graduate this spring with a degree in communications. This summer, she is expected to begin her career in the WNBA. She is projected by many to be a first-round draft pick. While it is Shoni’s dream to play in the WNBA, she has not thought much about where she might go in the draft.

“I haven’t really looked into it yet,” she says. “I’m not trying to focus on that now while I’m still in college. But playing the WNBA is something I’ve always wanted to do. For it to come to life and be real, it’s pretty exciting.”

Before that happens, the two sisters should have a few more games left to play together.

“She’s going to continue to play basketball,” Jude says, “and I don’t really know what I want to do after next year. It’s going to be sad. But I might as well cherish the time we have left.”