Louisville’s Shoni Schimmel found the right place and right coach to succeed
Before committing to Louisville, Shoni Schimmel was a highly sought after recruit. She is the total package – she can handle the ball, she can shoot, and she’s got charisma and personality. She is a package hard to find in this day of rehearsed press conferences with coached responses and is a breath of fresh air.
“I knew what I was recruiting,” says Louisville head coach Jeff Walz of the 5-10 guard from Mission, Oregon.
“I tell her all the time she could have gone and played anywhere she wanted, but she couldn’t have played for anybody.”
That is a fair statement. Schimmel is a shooter with “no conscience” as the saying goes, willing to pull up and launch a 26 to 28-foot shot as she is to drop off a crisp pass to a slashing Bria Smith or Asia Taylor.
“I know at times she’s going to take some shots that might not be the best,” continues Walz, “but at the same time she can make a few of them. Our Xavier game, in the second round of the NCAA tournament [last year], we’re down three, and we’ve got back to back four on one fast breaks, and we’re the one. Xavier’s the four on defense, and she pulls up from 26 feet both times, with about three minutes left, and I told my staff, I can remember it, she’s shooting it. That’s what she does, and she makes back to back threes, and we’re down three to up three.”
Schimmel is Louisville’s leading scorer at 14 points per game, but she makes them at a 35 percent clip, certainly not a great percentage. The counter to that though, is the ball is in her hands so much of the time, and the Cardinals are the fourth-leading offensive team in the Big East, so something is working right. Defensively though, the Cardinals have to step it up to make it through Sunday’s Big East tournament game with St. John’s and then the NCAA tournament. As Schimmel said after their victory on Saturday over Villanova, “every game you have to play like it’s your last night, it’s Big East tournament time, so we have to go out and play defense.”
Walz knows that people will always question Schimmel’s decision-making. She is fourth in the conference at 4.7 assists per game, but she does have an assist to turnover ratio of only 1.19. Walz is comfortable with the growth in his sophomore though.
“You’ve got to let a player like that play some,” he said, “and she’s done a good job herself of really starting to get herself together and know when that’s not a great shot…if we’re going on a run, she might take one of those shots, that’s not a high percentage shot, and that’s what she does. But she’s learning that if we haven’t scored in three or four possessions, she’s going to make sure we get a good shot.”
Saturday against Villanova, Schimmel played in control, and dominated play. She shot seven of thirteen, and her three three-point field goals all were important to the success of the Cardinals. She brought it on the defensive end, contributing not only two steals but also two blocks. She will need to duplicate that effort against St. John’s all conference point guard Nadirah McKenith.
“We’re going to have to come out and defend,” according to Walz. “I’ve been impressed with the way St. John’s has improved on the offensive end of the floor. Their point guard has had just a fantastic year, and we’re going to have to figure out a way to stay in front of her.”
Walz would be very happy to get a duplicate performance out of Schimmel.
“I thought she played really well tonight, both offensively and defensively. For her to make three assists and one turnover, two blocks and two steals, I’ll take that every night.”