WNBA fans in Indian Country felt a minor shock this week as Shoni Schimmel was traded to the WNBA New York Liberty after her two-year All-Star stint with the Atlanta Dream.
In an exclusive interview with ICTMN, Schimmel shared her excitement about moving to the Big Apple, and what WNBA fans can expect in the very near future.
With any change in life, things can be bittersweet. How do you feel about moving to the New York Liberty?
It is a new opportunity and I'm looking forward to it. This is a start of something new, everything happens for a reason. I am just excited to be here.
It's interesting since you are from the Rez and are now in the big city.
It is awesome to be here. This city is a lot more different than the Rez, but at the same time, it is fun just to be out here in a different environment. I am seeing the world, like I have always wanted to do. Basketball has taken me places that I have never imagined. I am really just excited for this.
You have already practiced with your new teammates. How is that going?
It has been good, and there is a lot of learning happening. There are a lot of plays to learn. The players are great and helpful, and the coaches are also helpful. It's been working out pretty good.
Photo courtesy: NBAE
Shoni Schimmel #5 and Teresa Weatherspoon of the New York Liberty talk during an All Access practice at the Madison Square Garden Training Facility on May 3, 2016 in Tarrytown, New York.
How did it feel to get some positive words from the Liberty president and former NBA player Isaiah Thomas?
Ahh, that is just humbling. He is doing a great job in New York and I am just excited to be able to work with him on this basketball team.
You recently tweeted congratulations to your sister Jude, who is now on the pre-season roster with the Dallas Wings. The two of you could potentially be playing each other on 15 May – how does that feel?
I am looking forward to it just because we have always played with each other. Now we are going to play against each other. At the same time it is going to be fun. I am so happy for her. But is definitely going to be different and a lot of fun.
Are you going to hold back?
(Laughs) Oh, definitely not.
Photo Courtesy: NBAE
Shoni Schimmel #5 and Katie Smith of the New York Liberty talk during an All Access practice at the Madison Square Garden Training Facility on May 3, 2016 in Tarrytown, New York.
You are such a positive role model in Indian country. How does that feel?
That is what it's all about. My mom was a huge impact on my life – she instilled it into our brains that 'it's not about you, it's about all of the other Native Americans out there who don't get the chance and who may not have the same confidence in themselves that you have.'
This is about showing them so they can think, 'If Shoni and Jude can do it, we can do it.' That is what is important. It's really not about Jude and me, it's about them and the future to come. This is something Jude and I take very seriously, because we have younger brothers and sisters and they look up to us.
We know what it takes to be a role model, and we know what it takes to lead these people to that light of hope.
What would you say to those kids who look up to you and want to be like you?
I would just tell them to believe in themselves and follow their dreams. I have said this before, but when I was seven years old I said I wanted to be in the WNBA. Now I am 24 years old, to have this come real is just surreal, because I work so hard and I have put so much dedication into this.
It is really about finding the right people to help you continue to be positive. You have to find positive people to be around. If people are trying to help you, you need to listen to them.
School is also very important because when basketball is done for me, I have my education to fall back on. This is something I took very serious. I didn't always like it, but I knew it was important. Working hard paid off and eventually, scholarships were coming left and right.
So what's to come for Shoni?
The best is yet to come. Honestly, I'm excited to be where I am today and being in New York is just another opportunity for me to go out there and become the best me that I can become. All of the pieces are coming together and I'm looking forward to what's to come.
Not to mention breaking some three-point shot records, right?
One last question, your Atlanta Dream jersey was the number one selling jersey at one point. That said, when will your New York Liberty jersey be available?
When will my jersey be available? Now that's a good question. (laughs) I'll have to figure that out!
Follow ICTMN’s Arts and Entertainment, Pow Wow’s and Sports Editor Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter - @VinceSchilling