Native American Night filled with emotion, joy despite score
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - One of the biggest basketball games of the season for the University of Louisville Women had people driving hundreds of miles in snow storms to get to the KFC Yum! Center Monday, but it had nothing to do with playing top ranked University of Connecticut. Native Americans wanted to see their sports icon Shoni Schimmel play in her last regular season home game as a Cardinal.
There were people from as far away as Alaska. Some 2,000 Native Americans from more than 40 states were on hand and the majority drove to Louisville to see the her and her sister Jude Schimmel.
Fan Faith Justice, of South Dakota, said, "It's a chance of a lifetime for me and it's probably the only time I would be able to come to do something like this."
As Shoni and her family were introduced on Senior night, Justice said, "We are so proud of her (Shoni) and Jude," she teared up, "it's going to be amazing."
New Mexico fan Donna Kipp explained when she was Shoni's age getting off the reservation was just a dream. "Just to get out and get away and then to be away from home you know," she said it's a great accomplishment.
Shoni and sister Jude are loved by Olivia Denson and her six daughters of the Mississippi Choctaw Tribe. Denson said there was no way she was missing the game, "Last home game Senior night pow wow," she said, "I said I'm taking my girls."
Bill May of Minnesota said, "I'm from northern Minnesota, 80 miles from the Canadian border the Ojibwe tribe." He said he made the 20 hour drive because of his granddaughter who loves Shoni. He said Shoni and Jude visited their reservation last summer.
Bethany Lawrence and her kids came from Montana, "It was 26 hours and it was long and scary and we saw a lot of wrecks," she said of the winter weather drive. Her son Daniel said it was worth it to see the Shimmels, "They're good and they're the first Indians to play college basketball."
David Colbert of Oklahoma agreed, "It means a lot and it means that Native American student athletes can have a place in a Division 1 program."
Even after having a tough night against the Huskies losing 68-48, Shoni still inspires her fans. A young girl in the crowd said, "Even when it's hard, she keeps on going and she never gives up."
Shoni said after the game, seeing all the fans come from all over the country to support her and Jude and the rest of the team was, "really cool."
Senior teammate Tia Gibbs said when the team has traveled to away games they have more fans because so many Native Americans come out, which she said is quite a tribute to Shoni and Jude.
By the way, look for a story on Shoni and Jude coming up on HBO's Real Sports. A crew was at the game with the Schimmel family.
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