Heading into the 2014 WNBA Draft the knock on Louisville guard Shoni Schimmel was that she was a shoot first point guard with weight issues. Nearly two weeks into the WNBA season the 8th overall pick by the Atlanta Dream has slimmed down a lot and is doing just as much dishin' as she is swishin'.
Schimmel's playmaking ability has opened a few eyes throughout the league. Schimmel is currently second in the WNBA in assists per game with an average of 6.7. Known primarily for her three-point shooting in college, Shoni Schimmel is second on Louisville's all-time scoring list (2174 points) behind her now Atlanta Dream teammate, Angel McCoughtry. Having targets like Angel to hit surely makes Shoni's transition to playing point guard in the pros an easy one, but there is still more work to be done.
Despite being near the top of the WNBA in assists Schimmel also has the dubious distinction of being third in the league in turnovers with 3.8 per contest.
"When we drafted her I said 'We can live with your turnovers' because I liken her a lot to Magic Johnson,"Dream Head Coach Michael Cooper told Swish Appeal."She sees things out on the floor so I'm going to let her take her chances with the turnovers. My biggest concern with her was the taking of bad shots. She has done a good job in that area."
"I can't wait 'till Celine Dumerc gets here because I like Shoni more coming off the bench, but she is the future leader of this team. She can get it done."
Swish Appeal caught up with Shoni Schimmel during Atlanta's recent road game in Chicago to discuss being drafted by the Dream, her developing point guard skills, and her goal of being the WNBA Rookie of the Year.
Swish Appeal: How has your rookie season gone so far?
Shoni Schimmel: It's been great. Just to be able to get out there and get a feel for the actual WNBA. It's only been two games but it feels like a long time with training camp and everything, but it's been fun.
SA: A couple games into the season you were leading the league in assists. Everyone knows you can shoot the ball, but a lot of people seemed surprise at your playmaking ability. Talk a little about your ability to run a team.
SS: I figure I like to pass a lot more than I like to shoot. It's just a role I had to take on in college - scoring. It was a lot easier to score when people were able to pass me the ball. In the league it's a lot of fun to go out and pass the ball to people like Erika [de Souza] and Sancho [Lyttle] and have them finish. Just to have those aspects in the WNBA it helps you a lot for them to knock down shots and finish.
SA: What did it feel like on draft night when your name was called?
SS: It felt amazing just to be able to hear your name. You sit there and dream about it as a little kid and then for it to actually happen is just a dream come true.
SA: You mentioned Sancho and Erika and you also play with Angel. What's it like playing with girls that can just fill it up?
SS: It's awesome. Different players do different things. You can have Erika running the floor and her being ready whenever it is and she'll finish. Sancho right there with the jumper, she loves that shot. Angel, you give her the ball every time she's going to score. We have a lot of different weapons on this team and it's awesome. It shows our depth.
SA: Did you have any previous experience with Angel from your connection at Louisville?
SS: No. I only watched her that year they went and played for the national championship. Other than that, she was always older than I was. When I came into college she went into the draft. This is our first time.
SA: Talk about the support that you've received from the Native American community.
SS: It's huge. It's a great thing too, as well. It kind of started in high school and then in college it got a little bit bigger. It just continued to grow. Being here in Chicago, I know there a lot of Native American's coming out. A lot of them will hit me up on Twitter saying, "I'm going to watch Shoni and Atlanta tonight."Wherever you go there are a lot of fans so to have that support system it's awesome.
SA: What tribe are you from?
SS: I'm Umatilla.
SA: What has Coach Cooper told you he needs from you on the court?
SS: He needs me to just play my game. That's what he's told me from day one, to have fun and enjoy doing it. Whatever it may be I'll ask him,"What do you want me to do?"and he sits there and tells me,"Go out there and have fun. Make smart moves. I can deal with the turnovers, but some shots I can't live with."It's been a lot easier to make passes and not have to worry about getting in trouble or anything like that. It's been a lot of freelancing and it's been good.
SA: What advice have the vets on the team given you about making the transition from college to the pros?
SS: I'm just coming in and kind of following. I follow Jasmine [Thomas] a lot. She's one of our vets on the team. She's just a great leader. To be able to follow her and listen to her with everything she does it's good to have someone to look up to. Being a rookie, you were doing that for people in college and now the roles are reversed and you're sitting up there looking up to somebody. It's cool. It's special to have people like Jasmine Thomas fill that role and help you. I feel like a kid, but I'm not [laughs]. It's cool.
SA: Do you have any rookie duties?
SS: Yes and no. It hasn't been too bad, just helping with the bags and stuff. I have to ask, "Do you need help?"or"Do you need me to do anything?"You always gotta ask.
SA: What part of your game do you think you need to work most on?
SS: I would definitely say defense. It's different to get used to all these big players. In college you only had one or two big players to worry about. With them setting screens left and right it's kind of hard to get around them or read the offense. For me to step my game up and continue to get better it's going to be on defense.
SA: What's your goal for your rookie season?
SS: To win a championship to be honest with you. As a rookie I want to go out there and be the Rookie of the Year just because that's a huge accomplishment. In your first year you kind of want to make a statement for yourself.