MISSOULA — From Malta to Missoula, Sophia Stiles has done it all during her basketball career in the state of Montana.
And as point guard for the Montana Lady Griz, Sophia Stiles has been center stage for most of her college basketball career. But the Malta native has been well-suited for it after a decorated prep career at the Class B level. Stiles won two Gatorade Player of the Year awards and took Malta to four state championship games, winning two of them.
Now in her senior year at UM, Stiles is seeing her time wind down with the Big Sky Conference tournament right around the corner.
"It's been a bit of a roller-coaster but it's been awesome," Stiles said. "Like Missoula is amazing, the fans are awesome and all of my teammates throughout the years. All of the turnover has been kind of hard but I've met so many great people and just the relationships I've made since being here has been just awesome."
But it hasn't always been easy.
An injury to her knee her freshman year ended her 2017-18 season prematurely, and forced Stiles into a redshirt the following year.
But in 2019-20, Stiles became the team's starting point guard and has been there ever since after working her way back from that injury. Plus, overcoming the turnover in the Lady Griz program with three coaching staffs in three years during the latter portion of her career.
"I mean that was really hard," Stiles said of the injury. "I feel like I was just trying to catch my stride as a freshman and then I got hurt and I've never had a major injury before and so I just kept being hungry and I just watched my teammates and wished I was out there with them the whole time playing with them so I think the love and passion for the game just kept me going."
But in her senior campaign, Stiles is averaging 10.9 points, 6 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game and is shooting at a 42.3% clip from the field. The highlights have been plenty, with a game-winner against Weber State on Feb. 3, and a career-high 27 points against Idaho on Feb. 17 to name a few.
Stiles also completed her undergrad degree in three years in psychology and last year earned a certificate in public health. She's currently working on a masters in public administration.
Already a good passer when she arrived, Stiles has grown into an effective scorer, with an improved jumper and a shift in her aggressiveness in finding her own shot.
And then, there's the leadership trait she brought with her to UM from Malta High School.
"She's learning how to be aggressive all of the time," Lady Griz coach Brian Holsinger said. "She's kind of taken a backseat at times and we can't have her do that especially without Sammy and so she stepped up. She has become more and more consistent as the season has gone on. I wish I had her longer because she is a really good player who has a ton more room for growth. I'm just really proud of her in general and who she's become. She's invested a ton into this and wants it to be great."
And it's been a prophecy fulfilled for Stiles, who long ago was told she'd play in Missoula someday, and is now in the final weeks of her senior year.
"I remember when I was in kindergarten, my basketball coach in kindergarten gave me a Lady Griz basketball and was like you're going to play here one day and that was just always my dream," Stiles said. "And so to come and live that and fulfill that dream has just been amazing. Yeah there's been some hard times but it's made me grow as a person and I couldn't thank the community and the supporters enough, it's just been awesome."