A New Language, New Regime and Spanish Pro Ball: Catching Up with Jude Schimmel

Agusti Pena / A New Language, New Regime and Spanish Pro Ball: ICMN is Catching Up with Jude Schimmel.

Umatilla Hooper Jude Schimmel adjusting to new basketball style, new food in Spain.

Since leaving the NCAA championship contenders at Louisville in 2015, she has written a book, interviewed former President Barack Obama and signed to play professional basketball in Spain.

Her venture in Spain began two days before last Christmas. Jude Schimmel received the call she had been waiting for since her college career ended: A chance to play in the pros.

Cadi La Seu, a Liga Femenina team located in La Seu d’Urgell, Spain was looking for another point guard. They wanted the former Louisville standout and Umatilla tribal member who famously played alongside her sister Shoni Schimmel at Louisville.

“It was special to me because it was my first opportunity in the professional part of basketball,” Schimmel told ICTMN. “Since I started playing — since day one — that’s always been the goal.”

Schimmel had waited seven months to showcase her talent after she had a tryout with the WNBA’s Dallas Wings, but was cut before the regular season began.

“I think having the opportunity to be [in Dallas] made me feel ever more confident about being able to play at that level,” she says. “I was sad and upset that I got cut but I’m doing my best to just kind of trust the process and let everything fall into place.”

Schimmel hopes the experience leads to more opportunities down the road. “Having this experience gives me an opportunity to get film of myself to show people in the WNBA this is what I’m capable of. I’m the kind of player that someone’s going to have to give a chance: I’m 5’6”, I don’t have [gaudy] stats, I’m not an All-American.”

Jude Schimmel says the toughest adjustment was the language barrier. Many of her teammates and people in the town she lives in speak Catalan, which was a shocker.

“They don’t even speak Spanish here, they speak Catalan,” she says, laughing. “I was thinking I would be around people speaking Spanish. Honestly, the language barrier is one of the biggest challenges. Even just communicating with my coaches and teammates there’s only so much that can get across before things are lost in translation.”

Agusti Pena / Jude Schimmel on the court in Spain.

But, she says she handled the challenge well. “The first few weeks it took me a little more effort to kind of catch on to the flow and style of the game. Here I have to be more poised so I can fit the tempo of the game.”

Schimmel averaged 5.5 points, 1.5 assists and 1.5 rebounds for the 13-13 team. She made it a goal to break out of a being defined as a role player, which dates back to her college days.

“Over here, I have the opportunity to be more than that. There are times here when my team needs a scorer and sometimes that’s me,” she says. “I want to be less of a role player and more of a scorer and someone who can create things for my team.”

If nothing else, the culture shock was just what she needed, Schimmel says.

“It’s so much more than basketball,” she says. “Being over here I learned so much and have seen so much; it’s been eye-opening. I’m kind of glad I’ve had the opportunities to set me up for this.”

Family Second?

During her tenure in Spain, Jude Schimmel relied on her family, which was seven time zones away. “I talk to them if I can. They know I miss them and I know they miss me. I signed for 90 days and as much as I miss them I’m trying to be in the moment.”

Her sister, Shoni, a guard for the New York Liberty, has provided encouragement. “She says the rez is always gonna be here just stick it through. That I’m a great player and I deserve to have these opportunities, which reiterates me being confident in myself and believing that I can be successful in the next level of basketball.”

Jude Schimmel had to cheer on her younger sister Milan, who won the family’s first state basketball championship at Nixyaawii, a tiny charter school located on the Umatilla reservation in Eastern Oregon., from afar. “I actually watched it online on the computer. Thank God it was on there. I think having the big family, I’m going to miss a lot of things and it’s tough.”

“At the end of the day they want me here for myself and as much as I want to be home and see those things I’m trying to stay focused. It was really hard not being there to see her play for the state championship.”

A New Diet

While exploring her Spanish city and beyond, Jude Schimmel says she took a liking to the local cuisine.

“I think here the [cooking] is a lot cleaner, the way they cook with olive oil,” she says. “A lot of their food is similar to what you’d see in France, like pasta. They even have like normal dishes that you’d see in America, like chicken and rice or chicken and mashed potatoes. It was actually surprisingly really good.”

Because she was on her own, Schimmel has had to cook for herself — something she’s not accustomed to doing.

“Back home I didn’t really cook that much,” she says. “Here I have to cook. There’s no McDonalds here, there’s no fast food here. I have restaurants. I just cook and I’ve never cooked before.”

Cary Rosenbaum (Colville Confederated Tribes) is a correspondent with Indian Country Media Network. Follow him on Twitter: @caryrosenbaum