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Shoni’s Shining Star

I’ve been lax on updating my blog up until now, but  am going to start updating with more frequency and enthusiasm now. As you have probably seen from the first couple blog posts, I like to comment on sports and it is always interesting to see a story that stands out from the crowd. This time, my focus has been centered on University of Louisville star freshman Shoni Schimmel. Schimmel hails from the Umatilla Reservation in Oregon. While living there in her adolescence she was a star basketball player on the reservation. This translated to further success in high school where she was named Player of the Year twice in Oregon and ended up with the sixth most points ever for basketball in Oregon (after missing most of her Junior season at that!).

Shoni in action

She continues to attract a lot of hoopla at the college level where she has garnered the title of Big East Freshman of the Week four times this season. While she faces the stiff competition of the Big East game in and game out, she manages to put up 16+ points and 5+ assists per game. Not only does she show her individual prowess with these statistics, but her team-first mentality by dishing out all the assists. It would be one thing for her to be an American Indian in the NCAA and sit on the bench. But, she instead is a leading figure for her team and community. She is one of only 15 women in women’s basketball with an American Indian ethnicity.

That last statistic is something I would like to focus on for a moment. There are only 15 American Indian women and 13 men playing college basketball. This is not because there is a lack of talent because as we see with Shoni, the talent exists. The issue is that many players with talent have a certain fear of leaving the reservation behind. This is where the relevance to American Indian studies comes into play. What is preventing many of these players from leaving the reservation? Shoni says that it is “sickening how much talent is on the reservation.” She further states that she is “going to do my best to prove to Native Americans that they can do it, they can leave home and be OK.” Hopefully this can become a mantra for other American Indians to follow and step into the limelight. If that much talent exists in the background, it would be interesting to see the effect on the college game if they come out of the shadows. The fear is that they will leave the reservation and not go on to become successful on the court or in the classroom, but sometimes in order to shed your fears, risks must be taken. Shoni took a risk by coming to the Big East and now she is one of the most polarizing figures in women’s basketball, a sport that is lacking any and all polarizing figures.

By following in Shoni’s steps, we could see a change not only in NCAA Division 1, but in the mindsets of young, talented American Indians as a whole.

 

Courtesy to Indian Country Today

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