Jackie Stiles: The Air Jordan of Women’s College Hoops
Jackie Stiles is arguably one of the most electrifying women’s basketball players in history. The NCAA’s all-time leading scorer, she attend (Southwest) Missouri State from 1998-2001 and led her team to the school’s second Final Four appearance her senior year. The superstar from a small town in Kansas, Jackie Stiles’ story is one of hard work, determination, and pure gut to take her game to the next level.
Not many people outside of Kansas or Missouri remember Jackie Stiles as she has faded from the limelight, but she still invokes memories of awe and inspiration everytime I remember what she accomplished and what she meant to a university and an entire community.
Jackie Stiles started every game but one in her entire four years at Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri. Now Missouri State University, Stiles’ first game against Grambling State saw her score 21 points and nab 9 rebounds and her college scoring was off and running and didn’t stop until a Purdue team stopped the Lady Bears in the 2001 Naitonal Semifinals in St. Louis.
Watching Stiles play was a treat unto itself that will probably never be seen for a generation. She took women’s basketball to an entirely new level of speed and grace every time she touched the ball. Air Jackie patented the “disappearing defender move” when she ended a fast break with two players in front of her going full speed until she stopped on a dime, spun on her pivot foot, and suddenly had a clear lay-up under the basket. Another favorite moment is when Charlie Spoonhour, legendary SMS men’s coach quipped “Jackie outnumbers those two defenders one on two” during a home game that saw her score an amazing 41 points.
Other highlights include a buzzer-beater in front of the then-third largest home crowd in Lady Bears history against rival Wichita State, and Stiles’ senior year appearance at home against Creighton that saw her break the all-time scoring record.
Final Four Run
Jackie Stiles took the SMS team on her shoulders and carried them in the 2000-2001 campaign. Aside from an early loss to Texas Tech, the Lady Bears put up a solid campaign but not enough to secure a four seed and two
home games in the NCAA Tournament. SMS’ first two games are on the east coast and next two on the west coast.
Stiles averaged 28 points per game even with only 13 points in her first game against Toledo. She crushed Duke’s number one seeding with a 41-point performance that is one of the best all-time single game scores in women’s NCAA Tournament history. The coast to coast trips were too much and they took their toll. Stiles and the team were too tired and lost to Purdue in the national semifinals 81-64.
Stiles barely had time to breathe after her collegiate career was over. After scoring 3,393 points in college she went on to become the WNBA’s Rookie of the Year with the now-defunct Portland Fire. Her body finally gave out after her legendary workouts that saw her make 1,000 free throws a day in her small high school gym in Claflin, Kansas.
After brief comeback tries with the Los Angeles Sparks and a pro team in Australia, Stiles hung up her basketball shoes permanently.
As of right now, Stiles resides in her adoptive home town of Springfield, Missouri, where she has become a business owner. Her business, called J. Stiles Total Training, caters to those needing help taking their basketball game to the next level. She is also a motivational speaker and aids in sports broadcasts with her color commentary. Her fund raising is also legendary as she and some other professional basketball starts helped raise money for a mammogram machine in a rural Kansas town.
Jackie Stiles will always be a legend to the city and community of Springfield. She electrified Hammons Student Center for four years and gave her heart and soul to a team, university, and 10,000 of her closest friends that won’t soon be forgotten. Air Jackie will always be one of the all-time greats in women’s college basketball.