- Sarah Spain, Contributor, espnW.com
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CHICAGO -- After five years spent bouncing around the WNBA, Allie Quigley has found her way back home. The 5-foot-10 guard, who is in her first season with the Chicago Sky, grew up in Joliet, Ill., about 45 minutes from the Sky's home court, Allstate Arena, in Rosemont.
After stints in Phoenix, San Antonio, Indiana and Seattle, getting back to Chicago was a dream for Allie, who's part of the famous Quigley clan, sports royalty around these parts.
Her late father, Pat; mother, Christine; sister, Sam; brothers Ryan and Jake; and stepdad, Don Strle, have all left their mark on the Chicago-area sports scene.
A three-sport athlete at Joliet Catholic Academy, Allie stayed near home for college, accepting a basketball scholarship at DePaul. She graduated with 2,078 career points, good for fourth in Blue Demons history.
Her younger sister, Sam, a 5-6 point guard, also played at DePaul. She finished No. 2 all time in assists (484) and 16th in points (1,273). In July of last year, at the tender age of 24, Sam became the new head coach of the women's basketball team at her parents' alma mater, the University of Saint Francis in Joliet.
"I'll still ask her, 'You watched the game, what was I doing right or wrong?' " Allie said of her younger sister. "I always know I'll get an honest answer from her. She's always sort of been the coach. Even when we were teammates she would tell me what to work on and stuff."
The sisters were two of the best ever at DePaul, but Joliet's older generation says they aren't even the best basketball players in their own family.
Their mother, Christine Quigley (né Prieboy), was an all-state basketball player at Joliet Central High School, where she also excelled at tennis, softball and volleyball. She went on to become a Hall of Fame hoops player at St. Francis, where her jersey was retired in 1983.
"Everyone in Joliet tells us she's the best athlete they ever had," Allie said. "She's even on a mural in town."
"Man, I wish there was some film of her I could watch," said Sam. "She's a little older now, so it's not as natural as it used to look, but you can tell she's still got it."
Their late father, Pat, was quite an athlete as well. He played basketball and tennis at St. Francis, where he and Christine met. He went on to coach several sports at Lincoln-Way Central High in New Lenox before he died of cancer in 1994. The basketball court at St. Francis is named after him.
Strle, Pat's best friend and a basketball teammate at St. Francis, helped Christine in the days, months and years after Pat's death. The longtime friends (he was the best man in their wedding) eventually fell in love.
"My mom always tried to have people around, aunts or friends, to help us out," said Allie. "She decided she liked having [Strle] around the best, so he started staying. They were together nine years or so before they got married."
Allie was 8 years old and Sam was 6 when their father died. But some of their best memories of him involve sports. When Pat died, Strle helped keep the kids busy and active.
"My stepdad used to always be the one to rebound for me or throw me grounders," Allie said. "We'd bump the volleyball around -- even in the rain."
It was anything goes for the Quigley kids in the backyard at their family house in Joliet, just six doors down from St. Francis. The kids would make up crazy games, trying to shoot baskets while riding bicycles and wearing roller skates.
The most heated competitions were two-on-two basketball games, Allie and Sam versus their brothers, Ryan and Jake.
"[Strle] would sit in a lawn chair in the backyard," remembered Christine, "and they'd play two-on-two. He had to be out there -- if he wasn't they'd have killed each other."
The backyard challenges helped turn Ryan, the oldest of the four, into a serious competitor. A standout baseball player at Joliet Catholic, he went on to pitch at St. Xavier in Orland Park, Ill., before turning pro. He's currently in the San Diego Padres system, playing for the Lake Elsinore Storm of the California League.
"He is following the dream, I tell ya," Sam said. "Every time I talk to him he talks about the scouts and how he's pitching well, but he doesn't get the call. He really enjoys doing it; he's been playing independent or minor league baseball since college. My mom makes the occasional joke, 'OK, Ryan, when are you gonna get a real job?' 'Allie doesn't have a real job!' he says back. 'She plays basketball!' "
The youngest of the bunch, Jake, played tennis at St. Francis and is an instructor at the Lockport Tennis Club. He's also working retail at Niketown in Chicago while looking for a full-time job.
"Jake is probably the most athletic one out of all of us," Sam said. "He reminds me a lot of my dad -- he can do anything! He can just go in the backyard and do a backflip. We say, 'Hey, Jake, can you go dunk that?' and he does!"
"He's always been the most athletic," Christine agreed. "But he didn't care as much about being the best at anything. He always jokes about being the forgotten one -- we goof around about it because he's OK with it."
With Allie back in town, Ryan is the only child Christine doesn't see regularly. Three out of four isn't too bad.
"I love it that my husband and I and a lot of our friends are able to see a lot of Allie's games now," she said. "It's fun watching the team, and it's been really great that when she gets a day off she can come back home."
Allie still spends the offseason playing ball overseas, but when her professional career is over, she might find herself staying in Chicago year-round. In fact, she's already got a lead on a hot coaching gig.
"Save a spot for me," she tells sister Sam about coaching at St. Francis. "Stay where you are or move up, but save a spot for me!"
Sam is on board, too.
"I think coaching together could definitely be a possibility in the future," she said. "We used to talk about it in college all the time."
Not quite ready to trade in the ball for a clipboard, Allie is working hard to earn minutes for the Sky. Chicago has never made the postseason, but it is leading the Eastern Conference at 13-7.
If they do make the playoffs, there's no doubt the rest of the Quigley clan will be there to cheer Allie on.
19dBonnie D. Ford