Milan Schimmel comes from Nixyáawii, the place of many springs, where basketball stretches beyond the 94-by-50 feet of hardwood.
“Being Native American, there is a lot of cultural affiliations,” Schimmel said. “Basketball is a thing kids do on the reservation when things are going on at home, so I feel like it has been built into what’s going on. If I was just chilling at home, my friends and I would just go play basketball. It was just something we would do all the time. It’s something we turn to do.”
Schimmel grew up on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation near Pendleton, Ore. She played basketball at Nixyaawii (pronounced Nick-OW-wee), a public charter school located on the reservation in eastern Oregon.
The left-handed, combo guard was a star at Nixyaawii Community School, leading the Golden Eagles to a 27-2 record and a Class 1A state championship appearance during her senior season. Nixyaawii lost 56-54 to County Christian.
She is averaging 10.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game with the Blue Dragons.
“Milan has all kinds of abilities and qualities that coaches can’t teach, and that’s what she brings to our team,” said Blue Dragon head coach John Ontjes. “She has played the point guard position, and she has a point guard mentality. We’re throwing a lot on Milan’s plate. She has a lot going on and a lot to think about.”
Schimmel often thinks about the turbulent-like playing style back at Nixyaawii, up and down the court with high velocity of scoring and speed. The style wasn’t out of control, but boundless. Schimmel had to transition to college play under the tutelage of Ontjes.
“It’s a different style of play,” Schimmel said of her basketball days at Nixyaawii. “It’s no structure to it. It’s definitely just running around scoring and creating your own style of play. It’s definitely a creative style of basketball. Coming here to Hutchinson, I had to change my style of play because that’s not how it works at the next level. You’re going to have to have more structure and be more organized.”
Schimmel had help adapting to the structure long before traveling 1,489.2 miles to the Sunflower State. The guard is descended from a high pedigree of culture and talent.
Milan is the sister of Shoni and Jude, who played in the Final Four at Louisville. Shoni averaged 17.1 points per game and finished second on the Louisville career scoring list with 2,174 points.
Shoni went in the first round of the 2014 WNBA draft, the eighth pick overall, to the Atlanta Dream. She also had stints with the New York Liberty and Las Vegas Aces.
Shae, Mick, Milan, Saint, Shoni, Jude and Sun are the children of Ceci and Rick Schimmel.
“She has always told me being a student-athlete, student is first,” Milan said on the advice from Shoni. “Always make sure your school work is done. Athletics is important as well, but always getting in the gym. Getting up extra shots when you can and working hard and being positive.
“She also touched base on having a short memory,” Milan added. “If you make a mistake, you’re going to have to forget it real quick. If you find yourself getting negative and being down on yourself, you’re just going to continue to throughout the game and can transfer to other players.”
Milan showcased her sought-after skills in her Blue Dragons debut, leading all scorers with 19 points on 9 of 10 from the field.
“When you have a scoring point guard along with a kid who can deliver the basketball to other kids and set other kids up, it makes it very difficult for our opponent to be able to shut down three guards,” Ontjes said on Schimmel’s performance.
In the language of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, “Xeeleyc” means persistent or bothersome, two traits Ontjes sees in his player and Schimmel sees in herself.
“Coming here and adapting is definitely something I’ve been learning to do and still learning to do,” she said. “Each different style of play has its own benefits. So far, I’ve learned to adapt, and I have been enjoying myself.”
“I think she’s only going to get better,” Ontjes said. “As we get more games under our belt, she’ll figure out who can score and when to deliver the ball.”
Milan Schmimmel and the Hutchinson Community College Blue Dragons return home for a 5:30 p.m. tipoff Saturday against Hesston College.