Louisville women make Valentine’s Day a happy day

What a nice way to start the day, waking up to a sweet Valentine greeting, a  double-layered box of Whitman’s candy, and tickets to a dinner playhouse production. Happy Valentine’s Day, indeed.

Adding to that the University of Louisville women’s basketball team handling fourth-ranked North Carolina State 66-59 the night before. The Cardinals moving back up to a tie for a first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference and in possession of the tie-breaker.

The UofL women snapping a two-game losing streak, serving notice that they will be in the hunt for a second ACC championship. Moving back into contention for a highly coveted seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament.

And how about Kylee Shook, shaking the nice girl role, scoring 10 points and 10 rebounds? Even more impressive was Kylee’s defensive domination of NC State’s 6-foot-5 Elissa Cunane, averaging 17 points per game entering the contest.

Shook would totally contain Cunane, limiting her to only 10 points, one field goal and seven free throws. Totally out of rhythm, Cunane lowering her head at one point only to have the ball batted back over her shoulder. Looking lost and desperate, that was Cunane. Shook had a whopping total of seven blocks for the night.

Jazmine Jones, meanwhile, back at her best, leading all scorers with 19 points, including three 3-pointers. She would also corral eight rebounds and make three assists. Dana Evans was looking more like her old self as well, with 14 points, four rebounds and four assists.

“We had a great week of practice,” said Jones. “The intensity was great. Everybody was dialed in and focused. We knew this game was a must-win for us. We knew we were coming into a hostile environment and had to bounce back … We came out, we played tough, we played hard and we got the job done.”

Elizabeth Balogun, back from her Serbian sojourn, adding nine points and grabbing seven rebounds. Most importantly, returning the chemistry to a team that needed her much more than she would have ever guessed.

Shoni Schimmel not much of a factor for New York Liberty

Shoni Schimmel’s career in the Women’s National Association may be coming to an end … and it won’t be a happy ending for all the people who looked up to her.

Shoni Schimmel.
Shoni Schimmel.

Considered a role model when she played for the University of Louisville women’s basketball team, Shoni and her sister Jude attracted hundreds of Native Americans at home and road games. They celebrated when Shoni was picked by the Atlanta Dream in the WNBA draft in 2014.

Shoni would get off to a good start in the WNBA, averaging 8.3 points and more than 21 minutes of playing time per game. She was voted to the NBA All-Star team in her first season, going on to earn Most Valuable Player honors while leading the East to a 125-124 overtime win over the West.

Instead of going overseas to play basketball, Shoni elected to go home to the reservation after the season. She returned the next season to Atlanta needing to play herself into shape, starting slowly but finishing the season averaging 7.6 points per game.

Atlanta wasn’t happy with Shoni’s lack of commitment during the off-season, trading her this year to the New York Liberty. Schimmel again was out of shape, needing to recover from her time off on the reservation.

New York Liberty is 17-7 and leading the WNBA’s Eastern Conference. Shoni has not been a factor, however, averaging less than five minutes of playing time in 16 of the team’s 24 games.

Schimmel scored six points on a couple of 3-pointers in an 88-70 loss to the Minnesota Lynx six games ago but has not scored since. She was scoreless in three games and didn’t see the floor in the two other games.

Disappointing that Shoni loses her motivation between seasons, failing to stay in shape. That’s unfortunate for her — and all the young Native American girls who looked up to her.

Emmonnie to forego basketball to pursue Olympics

Say it isn’t so, or wish her well.

Emmonie Henderson, the enforcer on the University of Louisville women’s basketball team, has decided to forego her junior year in basketball to pursue a qualifying spot on the U.S. Olympics track and field team.

Emmonnie Henderson eyes the Olympics.
Emmonnie Henderson eyes the Olympics.

So fun to watch her have her way on the basketball court, often providing the answer when rough and tumble was required beneath the basket. Never backing down, always in the thick of the action. Provoking an instant spurt of adrenaline, along with a healthy dose of intimidation, when she enters a game.

Emmonie has other plans for herself, however, like possibly winning a medal or two in shot put and discus competition.

“I wanted to take the year off from basketball, with hopes of returning, to focus on making it to the Olympics,” Henderson said. “It’s been a goal of mine, and I know I couldn’t do it without the help of coach (Dale) Cowper and coach (Jeff) Walz, so I’m very grateful to them.”

Currently, Henderson ranks 12th in the United States in the discus and 23rd in the shot put. Since her time in high school, she has increased her shot put by more than five feet and her discus mark by nearly 25 feet.

“Emmonnie expressed her goal of qualifying for a spot to compete in the 2016 Olympics,” said Walz. “I truly believe this is the best move for her. We always tell our student-athletes that we want to look out for their best interests, and I think the best opportunity for her to make it to Rio to focus solely on track and field this school year.”

With women’s basketball, Henderson has played in 68 games in two seasons and averaged 5.6 points and 3.6 rebounds, along with 25 blocks and 34 steals in that span.

Go for it, Emmonnie. Come back to basketball for the 2016-17. There’s always room for an enforcer.

Shoni to play for USA this summer

Shoni Schimmel, of the University of Louisville women’s basketball team, has accepted an invitation to play in the 2011 USA Women’s Under-19 World Championship Team trials to be held May 22-25 at Colorado Springs.

The USA will look to defend its title in Chile July 21-31, playing Japan on July 21, face Russia on July 22 and Argentina on July 23. The second round quarterfinals will be July 29, semifinals July 30 and the finals July 31.

Other Big East players are Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley of UConn.