Senior finally finds Stephens

Monday, February 16, 2009 | 7:45 p.m. CST; updated 12:41 a.m. CST, Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Jessica Stanley, left, stretches with teammate Vanessa Koonce before a Feb. 16 practice.

COLUMBIA — There have been some detours for Stephens College women's basketball player Jessica Stanley, but she says she's happy where she has ended up.

Stanley, a senior, has attended three colleges and battled through a rare and painful leg disorder that for a while sidelined her basketball ambitions. As she sat out and pondered her future, she found that Stephens offered her a chance to pursue her passions on and off the basketball court.

Her career began at Evangel University in Springfield, Mo., a school that was only 50 miles from her home in Stockton, where she was a part of a team that won three consecutive state titles.

"We had an amazing team at Evangel and great seniors," Stanley said.  "I also got to experience going to nationals in Sioux City, Iowa.  We got beat by the team who ended up winning, but we did really well."

 The following year she transferred to Park University in Kansas City.  

“I wanted a bigger city atmosphere,” Stanley said.  “My two brothers played basketball at Park, so this way I could be closer with my family, too.”

At the end of her sophomore basketball season at Park, Stanley suffered a leg injury that caused intense discomfort in her calf muscles and temporarily put a stop to her basketball career near the end of her season.

She visited multiple doctors for over a year trying to figure out what the problem might be, but an answer was elusive. The pain continued, and she was not able to play the following season, instead spending her junior searching for a diagnosis.

"It was extremely frustrating because no one could figure out what was wrong, and I went through about every test there is," Stanley said. "Thankfully my mom and dad were so supporting and there was a lot of praying that went on."

Almost a year later, a doctor in Springfield finally diagnosed Stanley with popliteal artery entrapment syndrome, which causes restricted blood flow to her lower legs. The syndrome is so rare that her doctor had never come across it. Shortly after being diagnosed, Stanley had surgery on both legs and wore leg braces for two months after the operation.

In the midst of sitting out a year of basketball, Stanley found that she did not enjoy the marketing and business management degree she was pursuing. She realized that fashion was her real passion.

“I looked for schools that were good for fashion marketing and I found Stephens,” Stanley said.

Stanley also looked into a school in Dallas, but once she found out Stephens offered basketball she was sold. She visited the school and spoke with head basketball coach Dane Pavlovich. Stanley decided to transfer and spend her senior year at Stephens and got back on the court.

"One of the biggest things that stuck out at the meeting was knowing that coach was taking a chance on me and giving me a chance to play, knowing that I had been injured and hadn't played in so long," Stanley said.

Pavlovich said he wasn't disappointed.

“Even though Jess had been with us just this year, it seems like she’s been around a long time,” he said. “She meshed with her teammates and is someone we can trust on and off the floor. I wish her transferring here happened years earlier.”


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