Her destiny was to be a Missouri State Lady Bear. How else to describe it?

After all, when Carly Deer Stubblefield was in the sixth grade, her dad returned home from a coaching clinic inspired by a college coach.

“That coach was Cheryl Burnett,” Stubblefield said of the Lady Bears’ longtime leader (MSHOF Legend 2015), explaining that later that summer she attended Burnett’s camp. She then earned an invitation to be a ball girl during MSU’s Midnight Madness. “That’s the moment I knew.”

Stubblefield soon set off down the basketball road, eventually starring for Warrensburg High School and then helping boost the Lady Bears to four NCAA Tournaments, including the 2001 Final Four. It’s almost a fairytale story, and certainly worthy of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, which proudly inducted Stubblefield with the Class of 2020.

Overall, Stubblefield was a four-year letter-winner and three-starter for the Lady Bears from 1997 to 2001, and finished with 705 points, 619 rebounds, 352 assists and 260 steals in 126 games.

She also was the first Lady Bear to record a triple-double (11 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists vs. Drake on Jan. 23, 1999), and was the 2001 Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year, among several All-Valley honors.

And it all started after her dad attended a coaching clinic in Kansas City, where Burnett offered insight.

“My dad came home talking about this coach and said you are going to go to her camp,” Stubblefield said. “It was almost like he was ready to put on a jersey.”

Campers who did well were invited to be ball girls at a Lady Bears game the next season. That’s where Stubblefield saw stars Melody Howard and Tina Robbins, and was awed by the huge crowd.

“It was just something you could really only dream of,” Stubblefield said.

At Warrensburg, Stubblefield became a three-time All-State selection and four-year starter, finishing with 1,067 points, 614 rebounds, 465 assists, 485 steals and 124 blocked shots as Warrensburg compiled a 101-15 record.

However, she missed half of her senior season after suffering a major shoulder injury during an AAU game. Burnett still offered a scholarship.

Just as significant was the summer before Stubblefield’s sophomore collegiate season. Back in town readying for her pro season was Howard, who became a workout partner.

“In my game, I was never going to get the most rebounds or score the most points,” Stubblefield said. “I tried to be solid in everything.”

She still looks back fondly on the entire ride, and a specific one in 2001.

“We lost to Northern Iowa before the Valley tournament. On the way home in the back of the bus, Tara Robbins, Melody (Campbell), Ann Cavey, Jackie (Stiles) and I all said, ‘No more,’” Stubblefield said, explaining the Final Four became the focus.

In the NCAA Tournament, the Lady Bears upset host Rutgers in the second round, taking out frustrations after being dealt a No. 5 seed. Power 5 schools Duke and Washington went down next.

“Coming back into the airport (after the Washington win), it was wall to wall with fans,” Stubblefield said. “We came back like rock stars.”

Thanks to St. Louis hosting the Final Four, many of Stubblefield’s relatives were able to attend.

She also remembers a win against Wichita State in 2000 at Hammons Student Center. Stubblefield – not Burnett – called for a timeout that set up the game-winning play: Campbell’s pass from the baseline to Stubblefield coming out of the blocks at the other end and flipping the ball to Stiles, who drilled the game-winner.

“It was probably the most deafening sound I’d heard,” Stubblefield said. “That maybe wasn’t our biggest crowd, but it was the loudest at Hammons.”

After graduation, Stubblefield became an assistant coach at Drury University, Portland State University and Missouri State.

Her thanks goes to many: Warrensburg coach Sharon Monnig, Burnett and the MSU staff, as well as then-Drury coach Nyla Milleson and assistant Trish Marsh.

These days, Stubblefield is a substitute teacher and junior high school coach in Nixa, where she and husband, Kevin, are raising their children, Mia and Thatcher. She also is an analyst on Lady Bears broadcasts.

“I have been very blessed to be a part of many basketball programs through the years,” Stubblefield said. “I am grateful for each coach and teammate that I have shared the floor and sidelines with. This recognition is for those who pushed me, lifted me and cheered with me along the way.”