While one chapter of her basketball life has concluded, Shoni Schimmel is looking forward to achieving more b-ball glory as early as this weekend.
Schimmel, the star player for the University of Louisville Cardinals, played her final collegiate home game on Monday.
Schimmel and her teammates, who are ranked #3 in the country, were unable to beat UConn, the country's top-ranked team.
The game, at Louisville's KFC Yum! Center, attracted more than 22,000 fans. The contest, which had been dubbed Native American Appreciation Night, included a pre-game presentation to Schimmel and the Cardinals' three other graduating players. The majority of the Native support was directed at Schimmel and her younger sister Jude, a junior on the team.
"It was pretty awesome," Schimmel told ICTMN about her final home game. "But it was a bit disappointing to lose. Nobody wants to lose."
Schimmel, who grew up on Oregon's Umatilla Indian Reservation, said she wasn't reminiscing about her collegiate career as game time approached. "I was just excited to play," she said. "I just wanted to get out there and play some basketball."
Once the game's outcome had been determined, Cardinals coach Jeff Walz took his graduating players out of the game separately, giving each of them a chance to be acknowledged by the crowd.
Shoni Schimmel received a thunderous ovation when she exited with about 20 seconds remaining. But she admits she wasn't in a good mood at the time. "I was upset we lost," she said. "I wasn't upset because it was my last [home] game."
But Schimmel said that she had to erase the pain of Monday's loss for her fans. "I got over it real quick," she said. "After the game, we had to go and meet people and sign autographs."
An estimated 5,000 spectators stuck around after the contest to greet Schimmel and her teammates. The players stayed until all of the autograph-seekers and well-wishers went home, which wasn’t until 1:30 a.m., four hours after the game ended.
"Last year nobody expected us to do that well," Schimmel said. "This year we've only lost three games all season. We want to get back to the Final Four this year. And we want to get back into the championship final and win it this time."
A total of 64 clubs will commence the quest toward a national title later this month.
Schimmel is also eagerly anticipating the WNBA draft, which is in April. She’s been touted as a possible first-round pick and is thus considered to have an excellent chance of playing pro-basketball next season.
"I'm really looking forward to it," she said of the draft and a possible pro career. "That's why I've been playing my whole basketball career - to make it to the highest level."