With the NCAA basketball championships finished and the WNBA draft set for next week, ICTMN caught up with University of Louisville women’s head basketball coach Jeff Walz to ask him about Shoni Schimmel’s impact on his team and what he sees for the future.
Did you have any idea that when you recruited Shoni that she would have the impact in college basketball that she’s had?
I felt as a basketball player she was going to have a great impact. We loved how she played. The style of basketball she played. It fit in well with how we try to do things here in Louisville. I don’t think anybody had any real idea the kind of impact she would have off the basketball court, the impact she’s had on so many Native Americans’ lives and the youth. I don’t think anybody had any idea it would get to the magnitude it has.
What changes have you seen in her, either as a player or person, during her four years at Louisville?
She’s matured. It’s been fun to watch her. It’s always tough for freshmen when you’re going away from home for the first time, especially for Shoni with having such a large family. You’ve got your support group within your family and the tribe. You’re going three-fourths of the way across the country and have to start over with making new friends at the school, believing and trusting in people you really don’t know.
You watch them grow and mature into young women. Shoni’s done that, especially in the last two and a half years. I’ve seen a big change in how she handles situations, how good she is with the media and in public. Sure, we’re trying to win basketball games, but our goal is to help prepare these young women for life after basketball. Shoni has really made great strides. She has a very bright future in front of her.
Where do you expect to see her play next year?
I don’t know who will draft her, but there’s no doubt she’ll get drafted. I’m looking forward to having the chance to go watch her play. She thrives on new challenges.
Do you anticipate changes in your coaching style with Shoni gone next year?
No. We’ll do pretty much the same [thing] we’ve always done. You don’t replace a Shoni or an Angel McCoughtry. You have to find someone else that has a different niche, watch them grow and mature and take on more responsibility.
Shoni’s got her own style, but there’s going to be somebody on our team, a returning player or incoming freshman that is going to take that responsibility and take that load that Shoni has left. You’re going to start seeing others start to blossom and really stand out. I’m looking forward to figuring out which one that’s going to be.
What effect, if any, will Shoni leaving have on Jude’s play?
Jude has made a name for herself this past year and a half for what she’s able to do on the basketball court. I think Jude will continue to grow and mature. She’s a young junior because she skipped a grade in high school. Another year of maturity is going to help Jude.
When you recruited Shoni did you have any idea how much support Louisville women’s basketball would get from Native Americans?
Jude Schimmel and Jeff Waltz
No. I’m not sure anybody expected that. It’s not just our home games, it’s our road games too. They support the team and want to get autographs and the great thing is they’re not just asking for autographs from Shoni and Jude, it’s everybody on the team. I think we made a lot of Louisville women’s basketball fans.
Any change in thoughts about recruiting Indian basketball players after having Shoni and Jude?
I never had any negative ideas in my mind beforehand. I’m a big believer in recruiting all players, getting to know their families and figure out if they’ll be a good fit for us. We’re going to continue to recruit players from everywhere. Native Americans, it doesn’t matter. We’ve shown our city, and our program, and our university embraces all [of it].
Anything else you’d like to add about Shoni?
Just that it was a remarkable four years. It’s amazing how fast it’s gone. I tell our players, enjoy every second of it every day because it goes so fast. I think Shoni has really taken that to heart and had a great experience and we’ve enjoyed having her.