Jia Perkins thought her dream of playing professional basketball was over when she became pregnant her senior year of college. Forced by her condition to quit playing halfway through her last college season, Perkins set aside her goal of playing pro and instead focused on finishing school and preparing to be a mom.
“I was almost like, well I don’t think I can play any more, so I’m just going to stay in school and get my degree and figure things out from there,” Perkins says. “I didn’t really think about playing any more.”
But when it came time, Perkins found herself drafted by Charlotte in the last round. Her parents offered to care for her new baby, Aalirah, for three months while Perkins attempted to realize her dream.
It wasn’t easy.
“It’s a big transition from college to pros and when you don’t go directly it’s harder,” Perkins says. “Because I’d been sitting out for six weeks, it was really hard.”
In spite of the hardships, Perkins played for Charlotte and currently plays for the Chicago Sky.
The 5-foot-8 guard is still challenged by being a mom and basketball player but says she’s fortunate to have friends and family willing to help out.
Her mom, a teacher in Texas, helps care for Aalirah during the summer. When Perkins played basketball for a team in Greece several years ago, her close friend went with her and cared for Aalirah.
Unfortunately, like many single moms, Perkins is often left scrambling to fill in childcare gaps, especially when she travels. In spite of this, she thinks she’s got a great job for being a single parent.
“It’s almost like being a housewife. You practice two hours a day and then you’re home,” Perkins says. “And it’s a blessing just to have her with me. You have some bad days but when you come home, she doesn’t care. It’s time to go play.”