After surgeries, Stiles is cautious

Portland Fire's star works hard to get in shape for new season

Where does committed meet obsessed, and what happens when the two collide?

Jackie Stiles found out in the eight months after the Portland Fire season ended. A fractured right wrist required surgery, a left wrist needed rest and rehabilitation, an abdominal pain led to surgery, the goal of a college degree needed work and her popularity drew Stiles to scores of appearances from here to Washington, D.C.

Stiles didn't shoot a basketball for weeks, her noted 1,000-shots-a-day routine replaced by anxiety and despair.

'Major withdrawals without basketball,' Stiles says, between bites of her chicken and rice and salad lunch Ñ and workouts Ñ at ClubSport Oregon fitness center in Tualatin. 'I've been a year-round player since I can remember. Eight months without basketball É I can't take it. It killed me to watch March Madness. I can't go through this again.'

Stiles, 23, will enter the great unknown when the Fire open training camp April 29. Can she be the same old Jackie, a WNBA All-Star in her rookie year and burgeoning superstar? How will she bounce back from wrist surgery? What will happen the first time she braces a fall with her right hand?

Stiles says the right wrist has been repaired, with pins to fix torn ligaments, bone chips removed and frayed cartilage treated. But full flexion will never return, and that has forced her to adjust the way she shoots.

'I've never had anything like this,' she says, displaying her scar. 'It's scary.'

After surgery in Syracuse, N.Y., in September Ñ she was making an appearance in New York City one day before Sept. 11 Ñ Stiles had a cast on her right wrist for a month. Her doctor would have performed another procedure, to get more flexion back in the wrist, but Stiles says she wanted to try to adjust to it. At least the shooting sharp pain in the wrist had gone away.

'The first shot out of the cast I couldn't hit the net,' she says. 'I remember I called coach (Linda) Hargrove when I made my first jump shot.'

Last September, Stiles vowed 'if I have to make 2,000 shots a day, I will, just to get myself back.' A fitness nut, she worked and worked, eventually getting back to where 500 shots became easy. But then another malady popped up.

Actually the pain shot down her side until doctors discovered 'enlarged ovaries,' she says, and put her through an arthroscopic surgery four weeks ago.

'They had to go through my belly button to remove them,' Stiles says. 'Then I came back and pushed it so hard that I had complications. I've had a few setbacks.

'I've been on the court about two weeks now, and I'm feeling good. I'm finally better now, feeling healthy. I'm taken care of.'

A reassuring smile crosses her face. 'It makes me appreciate every day I have on the court,' Stiles says. 'You never know when it can be taken away from you.'

The offseason has also seen Stiles go to the White House and sit beside first lady Laura Bush for the Redbook Read to Achieve program, to New York for WNBA and Nike functions, to Philadelphia, Indiana, Cleveland and the Big 12 Conference Tournament in Kansas City.

'I spoke in front of 8,000 kids there,' she says. 'They estimated I signed 4,000 autographs. Good therapy,' she adds as she wiggles her right wrist.

She returns to Portland after Friday's WNBA draft for her basketball camp at the Nike World Campus on Saturday and Sunday. She also wants to buy a condo in the Portland area.

Not only that, she's working on her sports and fitness promotions degree from Southwest Missouri State.

'I've learned some balance in my life,' she says.