116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Kiah Stokes chasing one more championship
Former Linn-Mar prep looking for WNBA ring and thinks this could be the year with Las Vegas
ARLINGTON, Texas — Winning is something Kiah Stokes has done throughout her basketball career.
There’s a state title at Linn-Mar High School in 2010, three straight national championships at UConn between 2013 and 2015 and back-to-back Turkish Cup titles in 2019 and 2020 while playing abroad.
The one piece of hardware that has eluded her thus far is a WNBA title. That could be changing as her new team, the Las Vegas Aces, look like a serious championship contender 13 games into this season.
“... the next step is to get a WNBA ring,” Stokes said. “That’s what our goal is this year.
“I’m blessed, happy, thankful, grateful (for the great teams I’ve played on).”
In 2015, the New York Liberty selected her first overall in the WNBA Draft. She played in the Big Apple through last season before signing with Las Vegas as a free agent.
“It’s been great,” she said of her time in Vegas. “It’s actually been a little bit of a surprise because I’d been in New York for so long and I really loved it in New York.
“Bill (Laimbeer) was my coach when he drafted me to New York, so coming to Vegas was pretty exciting to be reunited with him. Obviously, the team is really good with a lot of talented players. With Becky (Hammon) coming in as the new coach this year it’s taken the team to a whole different level. Very excited for this season. We’ve started off well, we need to obviously continue to get better.”
Las Vegas is 13-2, sporting the league’s best record through 15 games. Not only has Stokes adjusted well to her new teammates, but she’s also enjoyed playing for Hammon.
“Obviously, she’s well-respected as a player in New York. She’s pretty much done everything that she wanted to do and understands the game so much,” Stokes said. “She knows when it’s time to really work hard, when to pump the brakes.
“She gives us rest when we need rest and makes us work when we need to work. I think it shows so far this season that what she’s been doing really works because we’ve been doing so well, especially for a first-time head coach in the W. She’s doing really great so far.”
Many know Stokes as the daughter of former Iowa men’s basketball All-American Greg Stokes. Since she’s busy playing basketball most of the year with the WNBA schedule going from May through September and playing abroad much of the rest of the year, she returns to the Cedar Rapids area about once each year.
When she is back in Iowa, she quickly remembers why she is so proud to have grown up in the area.
“It’s definitely a conversation starter to say the least. When everyone asks where I’m from, I always say New York,” Stokes said, joking. “They say you don’t seem like you’re from New York and I say no, it’s actually Iowa.
“Then they get into asking what it was like growing up there, if I grew up on a farm, if I had neighbors. They’d tiptoe to ask if I really grew up in the middle of nowhere. It’s always love. It’s home whenever I am off.”
When not playing for the Liberty, Stokes was playing abroad, which afforded her the opportunity to see the world while playing the game she dearly loves.
“Well, I’ve been playing overseas for seven years. My first year, I was in South Korea, which was really fun, definitely a different experience,” she said.
“Since then, I’ve been in Turkey in Istanbul, which is like New York City but more European. It’s amazing. The food’s great. There’s so many different things you can do. The views are great. The people are actually really nice.”
Even with the incredible success she’s been a part of at the high school, collegiate and professional level, the carrot of winning her first WNBA title is part of what keeps her fire lit.
That and something else which drives athletes at any level of play.
“Everything is different, every title is different, every drill and possession is different,” she said. “It just comes down to you want to win.
“Just being able to wake up, compete and try to win something, deep down every athlete is like that. They just want to win.”
Getting paid to play isn’t bad, either, she said.
“It’s not like the NBA (money), but it’s still good enough that we get to wake up, go to work, have fun and compete,” she said. “That’s the best part about it.”
Stephen Hunt is a freelance writer based in Frisco, Texas