From a very young age, Jackie Stiles was, by all accounts, a basketball prodigy.
Born in Kansas City, Kansas, Stiles played for Clafin High School in Clafin, Kansas. Her high school games were events in and of their own right. She was named WBCA High School All-American and participated in the WBCA high school all-American game where she scored 18 points and was named MVP of the game.
Stiles took her immense talents to Southwest Missouri State University where from 1997 to 2001 she became the most prolific scorer in women’s college basketball history.
She became the first NCAA Division 1 women’s player to score 1,000 points in the season, recording 1,062 during her senior season. In those four magical seasons in Missouri, Stiles scored 3,393 points, setting the all time women’s NCAA Division 1 record, a career total that stood for over 15 years. She scored 56 points in a game against Evansville–still one of the top single game scoring feats in history.
Stiles was drafted 4th overall by the Portland Fire in the 2001 WNBA Draft. After a successful first season, she was named WNBA Rookie of the Year and saw herself on basketball card packaging.
After battling through numerous injuries during her WNBA career, Stiles spent time in the NWBL and WNBL in Australia, then turned to coaching for several years.
Away from basketball, Stiles runs a NexGen Fitness franchise, a high end boutique and personal training operation with studios in Texas, Oklahoma and New York. She runs basketball camps for kids as well and has her own website.
In this chat with SC Daily, the Hall of Famer reminisces about seeing herself on a poster at Walmart, being the face of a Fleer product, her mom helping her furnish her home office and much more.
Tony Reid–What has been the “biggest pinch me moment” in terms of seeing yourself on a basketball card or collectible?
Jackie Stiles-I was at Walmart and they used to have a poster section. I will never forget, I saw myself on a poster. I was like ‘No way!’ is this real life?’ I also remember NBA All Star Weekend after my rookie season. They had different trading card exhibits. My friend and I, well my friend, went up and asked if she could have the Jackie Stiles card. They said they didn’t put it out because it was too valuable. What? Seriously? We had to look and see what it was selling for. I will never forget that moment.
TR– Was that the first time you saw yourself on a trading card?
JS-I believe it was that, at that exhibit. I was on the cover of the Fleer WNBA edition. They sent me a box. I still have a box unopened. Now I wish I would have got some of my cards. I didn’t get any. I was recently doing a camp in Western Kansas and there was a guy there who owned a card shop. He wanted me to sign one of my jerseys. He gave me a whole bunch of one of my trading cards. I now have those at my camps. I’m not even in a basketball uniform on that one. I really do wish I would have collected my cards for sure.
TR–Your high school and college careers were ones for the ages. What was it like having such a high level of attention focused on you, from fans and media, at such a young age?
JS-That happened when I was in high school. It was crazy. It was amazing. There is just a movie released about my life called The Jackie Stiles Story. It’s available on Amazon and Apple TV and stuff. They had a lot of footage of the lines just to come and watch our high school team play. I will never forget when I went to Dodge City they had to set up a special winding path so I could sign autographs afterwards. It was wild. I had a guy call me, and this was before websites were a thing, he wanted to do a website for me. He did a website all through high school career. He contacted me during my eighth grade year or early in my freshman year. He kept all of my stuff, all of my stats and everything. He collected all of that and had it on one place.
TR–You had a high school career that brought national attention, became the most prolific scorer in women’s college basketball history, the WNBA Rookie of the Year. You must have plenty of memorabilia from those days. Do you have a place where you have some of it on display?
JS-My mom insisted that I put some of my jerseys and some of my better awards up. I don’t have a plethora of them up but I do have some for the really nice ones in my office. I have some of my nicer jersey up, too. I let her in charge of decorating that. It is hard for me to put an award or picture of myself up on the wall. It’s all in my office at my home. I have also given items out to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame that they display. My old high school has some stuff, too.
When I first started paying as a little girl, I never imagined that my stuff would be in the Hall of Fame. I might have dreamed about someone someday asking me to sign an autograph. It’s funny, my handwriting is terrible but my signature is really pretty. You can read it. Anything else I write you can’t read it.
I would sit in class and daydream and practice signing my name. It was pretty amazing when it came to fruition and I actually got to sign autographs. I will never, ever turn down an autograph. I am shocked that people still want it. I had that happen to me from one of my heroes. I know how that feels when someone turns you down.
TR-Oh, no. Are you willing to share that story?
JS-Can you maybe not use any names? It was my sophomore year of high school. When I was a young girl my dad always taught me to be humble. He always pointed to this certain pro athlete who exhibited that on the field. He was very class act. He acts like he’s done it before. My dad told me to know I was the best inside but not shout it out. We were at the state track meet. It was me and a shot putter. I was a sophomore and she was a senior. We won the state track meet with two people. We were in Bennigan’s. He was at the meet. I didn’t get to see him there. I saw him from a distance. He was with his family and went to eat afterwards. It was his family and our family in the restaurant. There was no one else. It was really late after the award ceremonies and stuff. My track coach was the football coach and he was a big fan, too. We wait. They were done eating. The athlete was signing off on his bill. We were too nervous so we went up with the coach and the coach said ‘These girls just won the state track meet title. They would be so honored if you would sign their program.’ He wouldn’t even look at us. He did even acknowledge us. It was mortifying. We just had to walk off. It takes no time at all. If you can make someone’s day by signing your name, what a privilege that is. I always take pride in trying to use my platform for good.