SCOTT SIMON, host:
Tonight, TLC airs a documentary, "Off the Rez." It's a coming-of-age story: a drama about generations, sports, sweat, winning, losing, sacrifice, triumph and love. Boy, that's a lot in 86 minutes.
Jonathan Hock's film follows the rise of a high school basketball star Shoni Schimmel. Her mother, Cecilee Moses, is also her coach. They moved off the Umatilla Indian Reservation in eastern Oregon and go to Portland to maximize Shoni's chances of success at a new school.
Now, at one point her team, the Franklin High School Quakers, fall behind in the first half of a big game. Coach Moses tells the team, including her daughter, this...
Ms. CECILEE MOSES (Coach, Franklin High School): You guys have to want this. You dig down deep and you go hard and you take it away from them. You take it away from all those people that don't want you to have it. Believe, you guys. Believe. One, two, three, fight.
Franklin Quakers Womens Basketball Team: Believe.
SIMON: Shoni Schimmel has just finished her freshman year at the University of Louisville. Her mother, Cecilee Moses, still coaches at Franklin. They both join us from Palatine Recordings in Portland, Oregon. Thanks very much for being with us.
Ms. CECILEE MOSES: Thank you.
Ms. SHONI SCHIMMEL: Thanks.
SIMON: Cecilee Moses, when did you first see your daughter, Shoni, pick up a basketball?
Ms. MOSES: Well, she started playing basketball when she was about four years old and that's when she had her first basketball tournament. And I kind of -that was the moment I...
SIMON: Basketball tournament when she's four?
Ms. MOSES: Yes. Back on the reservation, they had an age bracket was four to six and that year Shoni went in there. And we put her in her first tournament, and that was the first time I knew something, this girl was gifted. Because they went in and they went to the championship and they stomped on Shoni. I mean, they didn't beat them bad but they beat her. And for her, that was so devastating, and I'm not kidding you, ever since then I've seen that fire in that girl's eyes and that girl played a phenomenal game, you know, only at four years old.
And she lost but, I'm not kidding you, ever since then she's had that drive to just become better.
SIMON: Shoni Schimmel, what do you love about basketball?
Ms. SCHIMMEL: Just being able to be out and playing basketball. I just can't really describe it. Just having the ball in my hand, being able just to go out there and have fun, just play with my other teammates, like Sam and whatnot. I just love playing basketball.
SIMON: Why did you think it was necessary, Cecilee Moses, for you and Shoni and her younger sister - also a great basketball player Jude, to move off the rez and go to Portland?
Ms. MOSES: I personally felt like it was not just a move for just me to prove that I could coach but it was also a move where I could teach not just to my kids but other Native Americans that are doing the right things to get where they want to get, but you know what, you can live your dreams and you can have dreams and you can pursue your dreams.
SIMON: Shoni Schimmel, you are, well, you're becoming a very well-known athlete. Do you feel pressure to succeed - not just for you but for your family, and if I might even put it this way, for your people?
Ms. SCHIMMEL: I wouldn't say I feel the pressure. I know it's there but don't let it get to me. I mean, I'm just playing basketball and going to school like a normal kid really. I mean, just all the other stuff comes with it so just, I'm just trying to be a role model and do what I do best really is just play basketball and be a positive person out there, especially for the Native American people. Just because not many Native Americans get the opportunity that I've been blessed with ever since I was just a young kid, just because my parents helped me open the doors and I just had to basically get through them really.
And so, I mean, doing what I love doesn't really come with pressure, just going out there and playing basketball.
SIMON: May I point out, most normal kids don't wind up on the freshman All America team as you have.
(Soundbite of laughter)
SIMON: Do you even know, by the way, how many points you averaged every game?
Ms. SCHIMMEL: This season?
Ms. SCHIMMEL: I couldn't tell you off the top of my head.
(Soundbite of laughter)
SIMON: Sixteen. You're great. And almost six assists per game. You're very good.
Ms. SCHIMMEL: Thank you, thank you.
SIMON: So, what's it's like to be coach and mother?
Ms. MOSES: Being coach and mother, it's really fun. I always talk to my kids about everything practically in life. And when it came to coaching and being the parent, you know, I would just flip it and say, you know, here's the deal: this is a job; we're going to be professional. I'm the coach; you're the player. If you want to become unprofessional and turn into the son or the daughter role then the mother comes out and that's not pretty. So, you choose.
SIMON: Ooh, ooh, ooh, coach.
Ms. MOSES: Yeah, yeah. So, I would basically put it in their hands, my kids' hands, to basically keep it professional.
SIMON: You're sending two daughters back to Louisville come the fall. Jude is going to join Shoni.
Ms. MOSES: Yes, she is.
SIMON: Schimmel sisters might leave quite an impact on women's college basketball before they're done.
Ms. MOSES: That would be nice.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. MOSES: I hope, you know, honestly, of course we don't think of it that way but I hope not just, you know, for Shoni and Jude to experience that but I hope they get that opportunity because I think it will do a world of good to other Native Americans on the reservation.
SIMON: Yeah. Shoni Schimmel, what's it's like to have a sister on the team?
Ms. SCHIMMEL: It's awesome. I mean, me and Jude have been playing together since her third-grade year and my fifth-grade year. So, having that right-hand man always there for you, to always have your back, to always catch your passes, top always make that extra shot that you need and that you can't make, that she's there for me - she's my right-hand man. She's my go-to person every time on the court. If I can't do something, I know she'll get it done and I'll have her back just like she had mine.
SIMON: Shoni Schimmel just finished her freshman year at the University of Louisville. Her mother, Cecilee Moses, the women's basketball coach at Franklin High School in Portland, Oregon. A film about their family, "Off the Rez," airs on TLC tonight. Thank you both very much for being with us.
Ms. MOSES: And thank you for asking us to talk.
Ms. SCHIMMEL: Thank you for having us.
SIMON: And you can watch Shoni Schimmel in action. We got clips from that documentary on our website, npr.org.
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