NABI honors Angel Goodrich, Schimmel sisters

By Quentin Jodie
Navajo Times

PHOENIX, July 25, 2013

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(Times photo – Ravonelle Yazzie)

F or the people who have spent a fair amount of time in the stands during the Native American Basketball Invitational, they have watched teams go from offense and defense.

And vice versa.

That part of the annual event still excites GinaMarie Scarpa but the co-founder and CEO of the NABI organization also looks forward to awarding its leadership award.

"That is my favorite part," Scarpa said. "The leadership award represents young leaders who are making a difference in Indian Country when it comes to athletics."

The leadership award is named after the late Phil Homeratha, who coached the women's basketball team at Haskell Indian Nations University. The year before he passed away his 2009-2010 team made the championship game of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletic.

"That was the first time the Haskell women made it that far and he did it with nine NABI alumni," Scarpa said. "He was real proud of that and he got to see the vision in what we are trying to do here."

Scarpa said Homeratha never missed a NABI tournament until he got sick with cancer in 2011.

"When we started NABI he was one of our first (college) scouts," she said. "He was a huge supporter so losing him was real sad for us ... to honor him with his presence and his spirit we named the leadership award after him."

This year the recipients were none other than Louisville players Shoni and Jude Schimmel and Kansas University graduate Angel Goodrich.

Of the three, Jude Schimmel was the only one present during the halftime presentation of the NABI Gold championship game on Sunday.

"This is a huge honor," Jude said. "We've had so many blessings because of our basketball skills. I just want everyone that puts this tournament on and everyone that plays in this tournament to know that this is a huge honor."

And while a lot of people see them as an inspiration, Jude said the outpouring and support from the Native American community has inspired them to do greater things.

"They are a huge inspiration to us," Jude said of the fans. "I hope that this opens the young Native Americans' eyes, it allows them to seek whatever they want."

Jude said her older sister, Shoni, was resting at home after spending three weeks with Team USA at the World University Games in Kazan Russia.

"She actually helped them win a gold medal," Jude said of her older sister.

Goodrich, meanwhile, had other commitments to fill as the recent Kansas University graduate recently signed with the Tulsa Shock, a WNBA franchise team.

According to the WNBA website, the No. 29 overall pick is averaging 17.5 minutes a game. Offensively she has canned 4.0 points per game while making .483 of her field goals. She is also dishing out 2.2 assists per outing.

On July 17, Goodrich finished with 14 points, five steals, two assists in 28 minutes of play against Seattle.

During her time at Kansas, Goodrich started in 110 games including all 34 her senior year. She ended here career as the all-time assists leader at the school with 771 assists, surpassing the 23 year-old KU record.

"Angel came out the NABI tournament and she's inspired a lot of Natives," Scarpa said. "She's a positive role model for the Native American community."

As for the Schimmel sisters, "being the first women to play in a NCAA women's championship game really gave so much exposure for all our youth," Scarpa said. "We are trying to get college scouts and pro franchises to really see that there is so much talent within our community. The talent is there and to have these girls go up there on a national stage, it really brought so much attention to our athletes."

With that, Scarpa is hoping to see an increase in Native Americans playing at the next level.

"We have the talent in Indian Country but we need more preparation for our kids so that when they cross over from high school they will know what's expected," she said. "Those are some of the issues we're trying to help solve."

Part of the challenge is getting kids to understand that there is more to basketball than NABI, according to former Arizona State University standout Ryneldi Becenti.

"I hope they realize that they can go off the reservation and go play and not to settle on coming to NABI," said Becenti. "They should do something with their talent ... there are 64 teams here and each of them had 10 team members so we should have at least 500 women playing college ball. I see a lot of talent. I just hope that they can find it in their heart and desire to go out and play college ball."

Becenti, who also played professionally with the Phoenix Mercury, said she sees no difference from the time she played to what the current players are facing.

"It's all about heart and passion," she said. "When I played I always wanted to make a statement ... I wanted to be the first to play college ball, the first to play Division I and the first to play in the pros.

"I had the drive and the motivation to go and do it," she added.

Jude Schimmel shared those same sentiments.

"There is so many talented Native Americans that deserve it," she said. "I believe that at the bottom of my heart ... I think it's just taking that leap of faith and trusting yourself and take those steps to give yourself that opportunity."

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