Friday, February 23, 2018

Shoni Schimmel (left) and her sister Jude pause for a moment to listen to a question from a young audience member last Wednesday evening at the Multipurpose Building in Crow Agency. The Schimmel sisters’ visit was organized by the Crow Tribal Domestic Violence Program and drew more than 200 people.Raeshawna Red Star passes the time by spinning a basketball on her finger as audience members line up to meet the Schimmel sisters.Unique Lee Not Afraid is excited to bounce a basketball back and forth during the event.

‘Practice, practice, practice’

Basketball stars encourage Crow audience to follow their dreams
Last Wednesday evening belonged to the dreamers, hard workers and the basketball enthusiasts at Crow Agency’s Multipurpose Building, courtesy of Jude Schimmel and her older sister Shoni.
The well-known basketball stars – often referred to as “the Schimmel sisters” – arrived before a crowd of more than 200 to pass on wisdom, answer questions, pose for pictures and sign whatever people happened to bring. Twenty basketballs were donated by the Crow Tribal Domestic Violence Program and given to lucky ticket-holders.
One boy asked the Schimmels to the junior prom as the crowd laughed, though he didn’t know the event schedule. Sometime afterwards, to Shoni’s amusement, a 2-year-old girl asked her for a stick of gum. Still another attendee wanted to know the sisters’ stats regarding triple-doubles – a technical term that refers to attaining double digits on the court in points, rebounds and assists.
In their time visiting nearly 100 reservations – including the Crow Reservation once before in 2013 – the Schimmels have encountered a fan base that includes everyone from small children to older veterans. If online data is any indication, Shoni has 47,600 followers on Twitter and Jude 33,800. 
“We just had a guy say, ‘It was an honor to watch you play basketball,’” Shoni said. “That means a lot, especially from these older people…because you’re a kid and grew up playing basketball for them, for yourself, for everybody.”
Born in Mission, Ore., an unincorporated community of 1,000-plus on the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Shoni and Jude made a splash in the sport once they reached the University of Louisville in Kentucky. There, in 2013, they helped propel the Cardinals basketball team into the women’s Final Four, prompting Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma – from across the bracket – to tell The Associated Press, “Those Schimmel sisters are the most exciting players in the country right now.”
Describing their playing styles during this period, The New York Times stated Shoni “is a florid passer with a brash on-court personality” while Jude “is quietly reliable.”
Since their Louisville days, Shoni has gone on to play in the Women’s National Basketball Association with the Atlanta Dream – where she was named All-Star for her rookie season in 2014 and in 2015. She was traded from Atlanta to New York Liberty in 2017 and took the season off “to deal with some personal issues.” According to a statement by Liberty Team President Isiah Thomas, Shoni has the team’s “full support.”
As for Jude, she was cut from the WNBA’s Dallas Wings in 2016 before their season, but continued her career in Spain, starting in January as point guard for the Cadi La Seau women’s basketball team.
One audience member asked the sisters how to play basketball well. They both agreed that repetition is key.
“Practice, practice, practice – there are a lot of things that come into play, but practice makes perfect,” Shoni said.
“Literally, do the same exact shot from the same exact spot, or the same exact dribbling skill, every single day,” Jude added. “Eventually, you’ll start getting really good at it.”
As a prelude to the event, the emcee read words of encouragement from Crow Nation’s First Lady Deneen Not Afraid, who was unable to attend due to scheduling conflicts. She concurred with the Schimmels’ advice, stating: “Don’t ever stop reaching. Don’t ever listen to the words ‘you can’t.’”
American Indians, according to Jude, often face an extra obstacle, which she encountered while in high school when a “little kid” dropped a note off at her front door that stated, “Go back to the (expletive) reservation.” According to Shoni, she was introduced to racism when a referee began acting “ugly” toward her on the court and making bad calls.
“Racism is still out there and we deal with it to this day,” Jude said. “I felt the tension day in and day out. It was kind of weird, especially being in college.”
Fortunately, Jude continued, her teammates at Louisville were open to learning things about her, such as the fact that she didn’t live in a teepee.
“Our parents always taught us that you can’t control other people,” Jude said. “At the end of the day, control who you are, be the best you can be and – when the time calls for it – stand up for yourself.”
The Schimmels’ visit to the reservation was organized by Theodore “T.R.” Little Light, an officer for the Domestic Violence Program. According to Little Light, learning from people like the Schimmels may inspire those listening to set and achieve their goals, giving them a better chance to avoid domestic violence situations.
“They stayed with their dream and they accomplished it,” Little Light said of the Schimmels. “Now, they’re successful young women.”
More information on Shoni may be found by watching the 2014 documentary “Off the Rez,” which focuses on her time as a high school basketball player in Portland, Ore. As for Jude, she wrote a 182-page book the following year on succeeding in the “real world,” entitled Dreamcatcher.