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Old 05-19-2019, 05:23 AM   #1
bluesooner17
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Default Ou women’s basketball

More than 20 years after turning Coale down, Stiles lands in Norman
NORMAN — The first recruiting trip Sherri Coale made after being hired as the Oklahoma women’s basketball coach was a memorable one, even if Coale missed out on the recruit.
Coale sold the player’s mom on the Sooners and Norman and nearly convinced the budding star to become the centerpiece of her rebuilding project at OU.
“She comes into my home and just blows it away,” the player said recently. “She was just a high school coach then, hadn’t coached a college game. I knew they’d almost got rid of the program. But that is the impact and power of her presence.”
It worked out all right for both sides. But now, more than 20 years after that trip to tiny Claflin, Kansas, Coale finally landed Jackie Stiles.
Last month, Stiles was hired as an assistant coach for the Sooners, leaving her alma mater for Norman.
“I’m so excited,” Stiles said. “Really, is this real life that I’m working for Coach Sherri Coale, Hall of Famer?”
Pam Stiles flashed back to that long-ago recruiting trip when she found out her daughter was going to leave Springfield, Missouri, and head to Oklahoma to work for Coale.
“She seemed like kind of a mom person, and getting ready to send my daughter off to college a long distance away, that was important to me,” Pam said. “I felt really comfortable with her. I really liked her a lot.”
Pam said she was disappointed — but supportive — when Jackie decided to go to Southwest Missouri State.
“Literally, my mom was begging me to go to Oklahoma,” Jackie said.
When Stiles decided to pursue coaching after her playing career, she told her mom that if she could work under any coach in the country, that it would be Coale.
“So the fact that now it all came together like this, I truly believe that this was meant to be,” Stiles said.
After deciding to stick with her commitment and sign with then-Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State) in 1998, Stiles became the star of women’s college basketball.
In her senior season in 2001, Stiles became the first Division I women’s player to score more than 1,000 points in a season. She also set the NCAA Division I women’s basketball career scoring record with 3,393 points. That record stood until 2017.
Stiles helped lead the Lady Bears to the 2001 Final Four, narrowly missing out on facing Coale’s Sooners in the Elite Eight that season after Oklahoma was upset in the Sweet 16.
There’s a statue of Stiles outside Missouri State’s arena.
She wound up being inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016. One of her fellow inductees that year was Coale.
The pair hadn’t talked much since the recruiting process until that induction ceremony, but the families reconnected in Knoxville, Tennessee.
After Missouri State’s Sweet 16 run ended last season and it became clear Missouri State wasn’t going to promote Stiles to head coach after Kellie Harper left to coach her alma mater, Tennessee, Stiles quickly reached out to Coale.
It didn’t take long for Coale to decide she was interested and a conversation between the two convinced Stiles that this was where she wanted to be.
“What really got me was when she told me that she wants to win the one game that she hasn’t won and leave this program on top,” Stiles said. “I got chills. That’s what really pushed me over the edge.”
Stiles isn’t sure she would’ve had the fortitude to make the move — she could’ve stayed on with the Lady Bears as an assistant — if it wasn’t for the event that began in the fall of 2017 and led to one of the scariest times in her life.
Stiles struggled to see while driving at night and thought she needed a LASIK touchup after having the surgery in 2003. Then she started having to focus intently to catch a basketball, setting off alarm bells but still, Stiles didn’t think too much of it.
She called an eye doctor for an appointment and decided that if the doctor could see her that Wednesday, Missouri State’s day off, that she’d have them checked. If not, she’d wait another year since she didn’t have vision insurance.
Right before Stiles called in, someone canceled their appointment and left a spot for Stiles to be seen that Wednesday.
The exam revealed a tumor behind Stiles’ left eye. She followed up with a specialist who diagnosed her with ocular melanoma.
Stiles chose a treatment path that aimed to preserve her vision, plaque radiation that involved taking the eye out of its socket and inserting radiation “seeds” that help shrink the tumor.
Every time she’s had a scan — and Stiles will get a fullbody scan every six months for the rest of her life to make sure the cancer doesn’t grow or spread — the tumor has gotten smaller.
“I really feel like the cancer diagnosis allowed me to have the courage to totally jump out of my comfort zone, which was Missouri State, to do this,” Stiles said. “If there’s something I want to do, why am I waiting? None of us are promised tomorrow. My word since my diagnosis has been ‘fearless.’”
“I obviously wouldn’t choose it,” Stiles said of her diagnosis. “But it’s made me better.”
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