Jude just fine as 'Shoni's sister'
Both halves of Louisville's Schimmel sister act happy in roles, contributing to Cardinals
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- You might know her by some of her other titles.
She's the younger sister of Shoni Schimmel, the flashy, highlight-friendly University of Louisville sophomore star whose every 3-pointer -- and there are a lot of them -- at the KFC Yum Center is greeted with a signature call of "Threeeeeee, Shoni" from the public address announcer. No last name needed on those occasions.
She's the other half of a sister act that serves as a source of pride to many Native Americans. Rare is the Louisville road game, whether played in Spokane or Pittsburgh, at which there aren't at least a few people, and often something closer to a crowd, who show up solely to see two girls who grew up on the Umatilla reservation in Oregon.
Her identity is relative to a relative. Like more than a few siblings in sports, her name comes second, even in discussions about her. It's the kind of thing even two Super Bowl rings cannot completely reverse. But if such concerns drove her to distraction, she wouldn't be here, a freshman reserve for the Cardinals who most often finds herself cheering with the rest of the 10,000-plus fans in the Yum Center when her sister starts pouring in points.
Jude Schimmel is comfortable being Shoni's sister. She has had a lot of practice.
"I've been kind of used to it my whole life because she was always my older sister and she was the whole big show," Jude said. "I've gotten used to it, and I don't have a problem with it. I'm happy for her that she gets that much attention; I wouldn't say that I get jealous or anything like that.
"I don't know, it's just cool being able to say 'I'm Shoni Schimmel's sister.'"
Which helps explain why she didn't feel compelled to go somewhere other than Louisville to make a name for herself. She's comfortable with the one she has.
The two sisters talked for years about playing basketball together in college. Then again, a lot of conversations in childhood start out with a "Wouldn't it be cool if " premise. Jude loved playing with her sister in high school, loved the idea of doing it all over again in college. She loved the thought of being near someone so familiar if she was going to trek across the country. Yet while it seemed from afar a foregone conclusion that she would sign with Louisville, she didn't make up her mind until late in the process. As much as being with Shoni was a selling point, being apart for a year might have been the clincher. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but it also made Jude's identity stronger.
She saw on television what her sister could do at the next level. She saw with her own eyes what she could do at her level.
Playing alongside Shoni when the latter was a senior at Franklin High School in Portland, Ore., Jude averaged 16.4 points per game. Last season, while Shoni was busy taking the Big East by storm and putting on a show in the postseason, Jude averaged 28.4 points per game for Franklin. She went off for 51 points in one game -- bearing the burden and reaping the benefit of playing with the ball in her hands -- and led a team on the court, just as Shoni had.
"I think being on my own, playing without my sister, helped me grow as a player," Jude said. "It was tougher, but it was still a good experience for me. And then watching my sister, on TV and in Spokane [in the NCAA tournament], it was crazy. It was something we've both been talking about for a while now. It was just awesome to see that she was doing it. It made it seem much easier, much more reachable, for me, I guess."
Listed three inches shorter than her sister and decidedly slender of frame, Jude is undeniably on the small side of the Division I mold. But when you watch her slide into the lane in practice and casually deliver a no-look bounce pass for an easy basket, it's not her last name that catches your eye.
"A lot of people thought she was just coming here because she was Shoni's sister," junior Tia Gibbs said. "But when she got here, immediately, it was like, 'Oh, she's good.' She can handle the ball, she can drive, she has nice passes just like Shoni -- may not be as flashy, but she makes nice passes. We're lucky to have her on our team."
With two key players (Gibbs and Monique Reid) out for the season with injuries and another (Cierra Warren) no longer part of the team, those still able to put on a uniform play roles for Louisville. That includes the younger Schimmel, who is averaging 13 minutes per game and ranks third on the team in assists, even though the grind of Big East play has curtailed her production. The outside shot isn't consistent yet, and the weight room beckons, but she has game.
"I've been impressed with her knowledge of the game," Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. "The biggest adjustment for Jude right now is just the strength of the game. She's really young for a freshman. What she's got to continue to do this summer is put on some weight, put on some strength so she's able to handle the whole season. But she handles the ball well, she's got very good court vision."
Odds are that no matter how much her game grows, she isn't going to be her sister. She isn't going to be the next Serena Williams or Eli Manning, making a run at displacing her sibling in the family sporting hierarchy. And that is exactly why hers is a name worth knowing. Balancing the competitive desire to prove oneself with the maturity and magnanimity of a proud sibling is not a task many of us would pull off quite so well.
She believes in her abilities. She doesn't mind that they will always be those of "Shoni's sister."
"She's very comfortable with it," said Gibbs, a roommate of both sisters. "They're sisters. To me, they're like the perfect sisters, but it's kind of flipped. Jude's the youngest, but she acts the oldest. She's always the one making sure Shoni does this or that. She's like the bigger sister in the relationship. They're so good for each other. I think for Shoni, it's so good for Jude to be here. And for Jude, the same way, it's so good for Shoni to be here.
"They kind of balance each other out in a way another teammate couldn't because they are sisters."
When you think about it, that first-name-only call from the PA announcer when Shoni hits a 3-pointers only makes sense. After all, there are two Schimmels.
"We take turns, who acts older at times," Jude allowed. "She's still my older sister, and I'll always look up to her, but the roles can definitely be reversed at times."
Whether it shows on the court, sometimes Shoni is just Jude's sister.
Graham Hays is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. Email him at Graham.Hays@espn.com.
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