Jackie Stiles – Portland Fire
Jackie Stiles’ achievements for 2001 read like every player’s wish list: break the NCAA scoring record, make a Final Four appearance, be a WNBA first round draft pick, play in the WNBA All-Star game, and earn Rookie of the Year honors.
A self-admitted perfectionist, Stiles is characteristically direct when evaluating her first WNBA season. “I’m nowhere near satisfied.”
She points to an odd reversal of personal history. “I’ve always had the underdog role – no one knew the kid from K Kansas.” But she entered the WNBA with high expectations and let that affect her confidence.
Stiles acknowledges that life caught up to her near the end of the season. “For the first time in my life,” she says, “I felt burned out – I was mentally and physically exhausted.” I hit the wall about midway through the season. I had all these injuries which didn’t allow me to do what I love to do pain free.
And for every on-court accomplishment, the off-court demands on the Portland Fire guard’s time have increased – media requests, basketball camps, personal appearances, and, of course, autographs. If Stiles thought the end of the season and her return to Southwest Missouri State to finish her degree would offer some relief, she quickly realized her mistake.
“It’s even more hectic,” she laughs. “My day starts at 6am and ends after midnight.”
Ironically, the only thing Stiles has stopped is shooting baskets — September surgery put her shooting hand in a cast. Having never gone more than two days without shooting a ball, the months away have been almost painful. Recently cleared to return to practice, Stiles can’t wait to end the tedium of her of running and weight training workouts. “I’m just addicted,” she confesses. “Something about seeing the ball go through the net keeps you practicing and practicing for hours.”
She knows she “needs to be a little bit smarter – take care of my body so I can have a long career instead of a career shortened by injuries.” To do that, Stiles has set another difficult goal for herself – to better balance the outside demands on her time., tho she’s having diffculty doing just that. “I appreciate all of it, says Stiles, “because I know it’s not going to last very long. I still want to stay the same person. I think I always will — I’ll sign just about every autograph there is. But,” she laughingly concedes, “maybe just ONE apiece instead of ten each.”