Schimmel puts on a show

Flip to ESPN Classic any given day and you're liable to see "Pistol" Pete Maravich. Prepare to be astonished by his showmanship.

Notice his deft ability to baffle defenders with a crossover before unleashing a no-look pass or a jaw-dropping behind-the-back offering. Other times, he drives the length of the court and punishes his opponent with a sweet scoop or finger roll at the cup.

Then there's the outside shot. Never shy to put the ball up, Maravich's propensity to chuck up his unorthodox jumper from seemingly anywhere on the court made him the NCAA's career points leader and earned him an unforgettable nickname.

The "Pistol" style is one fans of girls' basketball in Oregon have become familiar with by watching the exploits of talented guard Shoni Schimmel.

Blessed with seemingly endless range and a handle that would amaze even legendary streetballers, Schimmel, who recently transferred to Franklin (Portland, Ore.) after spending the fall at Pendleton (Ore.) and her first two years of high school at Hermiston (Ore.), constantly conjures up comparisons to the Hall of Fame guard. Even if the comparisons are mostly lost on her.

"From what I hear, he was good," Schimmel says. "There are some similarities. But I've never really seen him play, so I just kind of go with it. Being compared to 'Pistol' sounds cool."

Schimmel, a 5-foot-9 point guard, averaged 22.6 points, five assists and 4.5 rebounds per game last year in leading Hermiston to the Class 5A state title game. This came after a stunning freshman campaign in which she averaged 15.8 points and 5.4 assists and earned the first of back-to-back Intermountain Conference Player of the Year awards. Rated the nation's No. 8 junior in the ESPNU HoopGurlz Super 60, she was named Class 5A Player of the Year in Oregon last year.

"She's a fun player to watch and is exciting," says former Hermiston coach Mike Royer. "I could be watching her on TV [some day]."

While she excels within the flow of a team-structured offense, she truly flourishes playing at a break-neck pace in the open floor. There, she can break an opponent's ankles with her patented crossover or behind-the-back dribble before finding a teammate for an easy basket, or she can hoist up a deep 3-pointer with her defender still in shock at the fluidity and speed of her moves.

"You don't see too many girls handle the ball and see the floor the way that she does," Royer says. "The speed of the game increases when she's leading the way as a point guard."

It took a little while for the veteran coach to grow accustomed to the awesome talents Schimmel showcased. During one practice last winter, she came down the court pushing the ball on a two-on-one break. With one fluid motion, she slowed down at the free-throw line before pounding the sphere on the floor. The floating ball bounced over the head of a
startled defender and safely into the hands of a teammate running the wing for an easy layup.

Schimmel's favorites

TV Show: Anything on ESPN
Movie: "Love & Basketball"
Actor: Brad Pitt
Actress: Jessica Alba

"It was a little bit -- kind of shocking," Royer says. "I was like, we don't need to do that. But it didn't take long to see it was a better pass. The crowd loves it when she does it."

Schimmel's next coach will need no introduction to her exciting style. This season, Franklin will be led by Ceci Moses - Schimmel's mother. Moses is quick to note that several Native Americans on the Umatilla Indian Reservation, where the family lived until moving to Portland in November, play with the same flair for which Schimmel has become famous.

"A lot of Native Americans go beyond what Shoni does," Moses says. "She is not doing it to show off. Sometimes, it's to strategize in a tough situation."

In middle school, Schimmel skipped afternoon cartoons in favor of playing with her siblings and cousins at the Nixyaawii Community School, a charter school on the Umatilla Reservation. Growing up in close
proximity to several of her cousins, Schimmel always had partners to
battle at the open-gym sessions at the school. Despite facing mostly older competition, Schimmel more than held her own, and she gained a
reputation as one of the best dribblers in the area.

"When I was a little kid, I always had a ball in my hand," she says. "I was always dribbling around the house. I used to get in trouble, but now (my parents) understand why I did it."

The next weapon in Schimmel's arsenal is her shot precision. She
regularly pulls up from 25 feet away and swishes jumpers off the dribble with ease. Her mother, a former standout at Blue Mountain Community College, helped Shoni develop into the shooter she is today. Moses taught Shoni to follow through on her shot by telling her daughter to visualize reaching into a high cookie jar. "It really just came naturally," Schimmel says. "She has always been there to push me."

Visualizing a cookie jar yielded an exceptional jumper, one of the more lethal weapons Pendleton had hoped to utilize this winter. After traveling more than 70 miles roundtrip to attend Hermiston the past two years, Schimmel returned to the Pendleton school system, which is much closer to the reservation, and rejoined a crew who play the same flamboyant brand of hoops - dubbed "rez ball."

"Its just basically everyone doing their own thing," Schimmel says. "It's been around for a while."

Her homecoming was short-lived, though, as Moses, who also coaches Schimmel on the American Horse AAU team, was hired at Franklin in late October. Schimmel's move will force her to become the main offensive threat for a struggling program that finished 4-20 last year.
It's been an eventful fall, but Schimmel is ready to play.

"It was kind of weird going to Pendleton," says Schimmel, who finished 20th at this fall's Class 5A cross country state meet in 20:01.7. "Part of me wanted to go back (to Hermiston). I'm kind of excited to go to Franklin. I'm looking forward to it."

The move will pit her against better competition in Class 6A, including All-State players Kate Lanz of Central Catholic and Brittany Knighton of Oregon City, both of whom played with Schimmel on the Team Concept AAU team two years ago.

It will be a different venue, but the Schimmel show must go on.

David Auguste covers high school sports for ESPN RISE.