Louisville's Schimmel sisters using chemistry to help Cards
NEW ORLEANS -- Playing basketball together is obviously nothing new for the Schimmel sisters, Shoni and Jude, who have played together for more than 13 years. But playing on this stage is.
These sisters have led Louisville to the program’s second Women’s Final Four in four years, a quest most basketball fans thought would fall short when you consider the team was facing the likes of Baylor, the defending national champion, and longtime powerhouse Tennessee.
It seems it would be nice to know what someone else is thinking and to be so connected and in tune that you can predict what will happen next. Surely the Lady Bears wish they would have had this foresight Sunday night when the Cards upended Baylor’s run at another national championship.
Well, Jude and Shoni have this sisterly connection, an insider’s edge that has proven to be beneficial for Louisville.
“It’s cool that we understand each other,” Jude said. “Over the years, it’s grown and grown that we understand each other more. When we are on the court, I really feel like I can read her mind sometimes. It’s not very often you get to play in the Final Four with your sister. I feel like we just have a different connection because we are sisters. It’s just a special thing.”
“It’s almost like we know what the other’s going to do next and what we want to do,” Shoni added. “I know when she’s going to drive. I know when she’s going to shoot it. I’m sure she knows the same for me. Having that experience playing with each other is huge for us.”
Not only do they have this courtside insight, but they also are able to feed off each other and use their relationship to keep each other motivated and encouraged when a matchup may be off-kilter or one is having a rough game.
“I’m there for her and I know what she needs to hear at times and I know what she doesn’t want to hear at times,” Shoni said. “We know each other pretty well and we know what gets each other going. …We’re sisters so it just kind of comes with it, but also we’re teammates so that helps a lot too.”
It was no surprise that Jude and Shoni would have a love for the hardwood. It’s in their blood. With parents both playing round ball of some sort, the sisters grew up knowing no different.
Their father, Rick, played baseball at Stanford, and their mother, CeCilee, played basketball in college. Jude and Shoni aren’t the only two of eight siblings that have found a love for the game. From their oldest brother to their youngest, basketball has been engrained as a major part of their lives.
Their parents have put a great focus on ensuring that their children tap into something very positive, and for them, it was basketball.
“It’s kind of there in my blood,” Shoni said. “My 24-year-old brother plays basketball down to my 4-year-old brother. It’s all we know.”
“It was our dream to play basketball at the highest level and that was the positive thing,” Jude added. “We could’ve gotten into anything else, but because our family wanted us to succeed and we wanted to achieve this for our family, it helped us focus on basketball. … Basketball has gotten us this far.”
Ironically enough, Rick and CeCilee have been so busy raising and coaching their eight children throughout the years, they never took the time in their 28 years together to officially get married. But the fate of the infamous Louisville vs. Baylor game changed that.
“It was Easter Sunday and my dad’s like, anything can happen,” Shoni said. “So my mom was like, all right, if you guys beat Baylor, I’ll marry your dad. That ended up happening and they ended up getting married the next day, in between our games, the Baylor and Tennessee games.”
It was just another highlight of the most exciting run of this year’s NCAA tournament, and one that the Cardinals plan to keep on trekking for two more games. The lowest seed in New Orleans, Louisville still has a fire underneath them, a lot of doubting women’s hoops fans and a point to prove – an all too familiar feeling from the past two games, and one they have responded very well to.
“People don’t give us the benefit of the doubt,” Shoni said. “We all play basketball, but we’re here to win. For us to beat Baylor, and beat Tennessee, it’s like nobody ever expected that. We’re here for business.
“I mean we are the fifth seed out of all of this. We’re still not supposed to be here. We have the mentality that we’re going to continue to keep knocking people off one at a time. We’ve got two more games to do so.”
The Schimmel sisters and their fellow Cardinals surely have won over a few believers the past two games with their fire, energy and determination. Starting Sunday versus California in the national semifinals, hopefully they will win over a few more.