New York Liberty guard Shoni Schimmel announced her plan to sit out the 2017 WNBA season via team press release on Saturday. The hiatus comes after a down year on the court for Schimmel, a two-time All-Star who will be sitting out what would have been her fourth season in the league.
Schimmel did not report to training camp late last month, with New York coach Bill Laimbeer telling ESPN on April 28 that Schimmel “decided to take some time off.” Laimbeer did not specify why, telling the reporter to “call and ask her. I’m not going to speak for her. She’s on the roster, she’s under contract. It’s her choice.” According to a her statement, Schimmel will return to the Liberty for the 2018 season.
“I’m very grateful to the New York Liberty for allowing me to take this season to deal with some personal issues. I look forward to rejoining them next year.”
Schimmel has long been a fixture for those that follow women’s college basketball and Native American athletes in general (a tight search field, I know). She was featured in Jonathan Hock’s “Off The Rez,” an excellent 2011 documentary that followed her career playing rez ball on the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Oregon, where she dominated the competitive local circuit, to the point that she was signed by Louisville. Schimmel went on to start and star for the Cardinals for four years; she finished second on the program’s all-time scoring list and was named an All-American as a senior after averaging 17.1 points per game in 2014.
The same year, she went No. 8 to the Atlanta Dream in the WNBA draft. As a rookie, Schimmel was in the starting rotation within the first five games, scoring 17 points in both the team’s second and third games of the year. She only started twice before the All-Star break, coming off the bench the rest of the year to average 8.7 points and 3.6 assists in 21 minutes per game.
Her early season breakout performances and fairly consistent play off the bench were enough to impress fans by July, when she was voted as a starter in the 2014 All-Star Game. Schimmel capitalized on the spotlight, scoring a WNBA All-Star Game-record 29 points in ridiculously fun fashion. In the fourth quarter and overtime, Schimmel was draining deep threes, flipping in runners, and banking fadeaway jumpers; her East squad edged out the West 125-124 in overtime after she cut a four-point deficit to one with 41 seconds left.
By season’s end, Schimmel’s was the league’s most popular jersey.
But the success she had in producing the occasional excellent game came less often in her second season with the Dream. Schimmel’s points, assists, and win shares per 48 minutes all dropped; she still went for 7.6 points, 2.5 boards, and 3.2 assists, earning her a second-straight All-Star Game appearance. The second nod from the fans was not enough for Atlanta, though, which traded Schimmel to the Liberty for a second-round pick at the end of the season, reportedly in part because Schimmel appeared for training camp and games during the regular season out of shape.
Schimmel seemed to be in fine condition this past season, but she struggled to earn minutes or produce on the court with the Liberty, coming off the bench to play in 17 games before a concussion sidelined her for the remainder of the season. She finished the season averaging 2.1 points and 0.6 assists per contest.