Shoni Schimmel’s career as a WNBA player is at risk after she showed up for training camp out of shape for the second consecutive year, according to Dream coach Michael Cooper.
“(I’m) very, very disappointed in her,” he said Tuesday. “Our owners are very disappointed in her. But we still believe in her. But she has to be held accountable. We will see by the time training camp ends.”
Schimmel wasn't as concerned, saying she knows her body and is confident that she will get into playing shape.
“Everybody doesn’t come into camp in condition,” she said. “For me to come in the way I do, it’s just a learning process. I’m still a kid trying to be an adult. I’m human. But I’m going to give it my all. At the end of the day, I love basketball. Whatever happens, happens. I’ll still play basketball at the end of the day.”
Unlike the players who were under contract and returning to the Dream, Schimmel was the only one who didn’t play overseas between seasons. Cooper said it’s unfortunate that many WNBA players must go overseas to supplement their incomes, but the advantage is it also helps them to stay in shape.
Schimmel said last season that she was going to play overseas. She changed her mind when her grandmother, Lillian, became sick. She has recovered, but she also has been on dialysis for 18 years.
“Not everybody does overseas,” Schimmel said. “The people who want money, need money, go overseas. It’s not about the money for me. It’s about spending time with my family. Being here in Atlanta for six months out of the year is long enough to be away from my family.”
Schimmel said she would go overseas if the right deal is struck.
Cooper said he loves his family, too, but also understands what it means to be a professional basketball player.
“I believe Shoni loves the game, but you have to do what it takes to stay at a condition where you can play this game to the maximum of your ability,” he said.
Instead of taking a step forward in her second year and building on her promising 2014 rookie season, she may have taken a step backward. Her stats in her second year were almost identical to her first, with career averages of 8 points, 2.3 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game.
Schimmel’s problems started early.
Citing exhaustion after going straight from Louisville to the Dream for her first season, she wanted a break and elected not to play overseas after Atlanta was defeated in the playoffs. More than eight months later, she showed up for the Dream’s April training camp for the 2015 season visibly out of shape.
Cooper still played her once the season started, but that didn’t last long.
After 2-of-10 shooting, five turnovers and three assists in 31 minutes in the second game, he no longer called on her as often. Between that game and the next, Cooper told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Schimmel "understands the magnitude of being a professional basketball player, a professional athlete now. It's about keeping your body in tip-top shape all year around to where when you come to training camp, training camp shouldn't be a time for you to get in shape, training camp is a time to take the shape you're in and take it to another level with your teammates."
Schimmel said that she and Cooper had reached an understanding. But that didn’t mean he was going to play her.
Schimmel's playing time cracked just 20 minutes once in the next six games, during which her turnovers outnumbered her assists 16-15. Her playing time cratered to one minute in a 100-96 loss to Chicago on June 24.
As she played her way back into shape her playing time increased, but her shooting touch and passing remained subpar.
She made 50 percent of her field goals in just seven games in the season to finish with a shooting percentage of 37.8. She finished with a turnover ratio of plus-1.1 built on an average of 3.2 assists per game (14th in league) and 2.3 turnovers (sixth in the league). She played just an average of 19.8 minutes per game, the fewest of any player in the top 20 in turnovers and among the fewest in assists.
Now, Schimmel faces new challenges.
In addition to Cooper's concerns, the team drafted a point guard, Niya Johnson of Baylor, who led Division I in assists per game (8.7) last season. The team also re-signed Carla Cortijo and Ariel Massengale, who didn't play last season after recovering from a knee injury.
Cooper said he had already decided to move Schimmel to shooting guard because he thinks that where she can be the most effective. It’s a move that she said she is fine with because she played that her final two seasons at Louisville. But minutes may be hard to come by there because of the return of Tiffany Hayes, the team’s second-leading scorer last season. The Dream also selected West Virginia guard Bria Holmes in the first round of the draft and Texas A&M guard Courtney Walker in the second round this year.
“There’s not going to be many minutes when you aren’t ready to play full steam ahead,” Cooper said. “Right now, Shoni is behind the eight ball again. It’s unfortunate that she isn’t taking care of herself in the offseason.”
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Credit: Ben Hendren for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution