Practice made Skiles one of state?s best at hoops

One thing is certain for every athlete: To excel in sports requires dedicated practice. High school basketball is a game that puts a high premium on practice and it is fast becoming a year-around sport. Practice, practice and at times even more practice. No one, however, has practiced basketball quite like Jackie Stiles!

Stiles, who was a star for Claflin High School, is one of the most celebrated basketball players (boy or girl) this state has ever seen. Even as a young girl she enjoyed her time in the gym with her father and spent hours upon hours working on the game she loved.

Once in high school, she wasted little time in claiming dominion over the game. In her first varsity game as a freshman, Stiles tossed in 36 points and then followed that with a 28-point performance. With the freshman star leading the way, Claflin sprinted to a third-place finish in the state tournament. During the year, Stiles averaged a nifty 29.9 points per game.

The spectacular career continued. Of all of her great moments and accomplishments, none is perhaps more remarkable than an incident early in 1995, her sophomore season. In just the third game of the year, Stiles took a hard fall and went to the bench suffering from severe pain in her right wrist and hand, which is her shooting side.

Although she begged for a ?tape job? to get back into the game, she was off to the emergency room. Initially, the injury was thought to be a severe sprain, but further tests revealed a major break and a bone chip to boot. The doctor?s orders were clear: Four weeks in a hard cast (with no playing) followed by four weeks in a soft cast (during which she could play).

Most players would have used the down time to rest. Not Jackie Stiles. The injury was a setback, but also an opportunity to become an even better player. The sophomore focused on learning to shoot left-handed and when she finally was cleared to play, she spent the next three games playing essentially with only her left hand while the right remained protected. In those games she still managed just over 20 points per game!

With the star now back in the lineup, Claflin maneuvered a return trip to the state tournament. In the state semifinals, now finally free of any cast, Stiles? greatly weakened shooting hand failed at the worst possible time. She scored just 17 points, managing to hit four of 21 shots from the floor. Claflin lost the game.

?It was a low point for me,? Stiles said. ?I felt I let so many people down. From that point I rededicated myself to becoming even better than before. My goal was simple: Make 1,000 shots a day, and every day I kept that goal until my freshman year in college. Even though I never won a state basketball title while at Claflin, it was still a wonderful career filled with great teammates, coaches, friends and a supportive and encouraging family.?

Her wonderful basketball career continued in college, where she scored an NCAA record 3,393 points while playing for the Southwest Missouri State Bears. Stiles helped lead the Bears to a Final Four appearance (2001) and for her efforts was named to numerous All-American teams. She later won the WNBA Rookie of the Year award as a player for the Portland Fire.

It all began in Claflin. As a Wildcat, she received numerous all-state and all-American honors and scored 3,603 points?the top scoring mark in the state, boy or girl. Included in that total were 71- and 61-point games as well as multiple 50-point efforts.

Right-handed or left-handed: No one scored quite like the legend from Claflin, Jackie Stiles. She is a remarkable story from the courts of Kansas Hoopla.

Ideas, comments and questions? Contact ? 2010 by Steven Michael Farney. All rights reserved.

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