The girl started playing basketball against her older brother on a raggedy curbside hoop in front of their house. The brother, 16, always won. The sister, 10, always ran inside and cried in her mother’s arms.
In the dozen years since, that basketball hoop has been confiscated by the local police. That older brother, DeShawn, has been incarcerated for selling cocaine. That house has been torn down. That mother is dead. So all that’s left, really, is the little girl, now a grown woman, looking to make a name for herself in a neighborhood where names have never been made.
That’s Sugar Rodgers.
A senior guard and team captain at Georgetown, Rodgers is the No. 2 scorer in the nation at 24.8 points per game. She’s led the Hoyas in scoring in 10 of their 11 contests this season and is on pace to become the most prolific scorer — man or woman — in the 106-year history of Georgetown basketball.
But that’s not the impressive part.
No, the impressive part is what Rodgers, 23, has overcome to get there. How she’s escaped the drugs and crime of her neighborhood in Suffolk, Va. The deaths of her mother, uncle, nephew and father, in that order. The incarceration of two siblings and another nephew. The seizure of her house. The homelessness that followed.
“You cry every night for a better life,” said Rodgers, whose birth name is Ta’Shauna. “You just always wish that you had another life, but you don’t. That’s the part you have to deal with.”
Before the points and the accolades and the deaths and the tears, Rodgers was just another kid in the Williamstown neighborhood of Suffolk.
Drug deals were commonplace. Shootings and robberies, too. Rodgers saw it all, the very worst of human nature, and she saw it before entering middle school.
“You can’t understand Sugar,” said Boo Williams, her AAU coach, “until you understand where Sugar comes from.”
Rodgers was 10 when DeShawn bought that old wooden basketball hoop from a man down the street for $20. They set it up on the curb in front of their house, using cracked bricks and old tires to keep the base firmly on the ground. Their mother bought them a rim for $15 at Wal-Mart.
As the only basket in the neighborhood, that curbside hoop became one of the most sacred spots on the block. It’s where neighborhood kids, drug dealers and felons came to pass the time or bet on a game. And it’s where Sugar and DeShawn played their ever-important games of one-on-one.
Rodgers shot at that hoop for hours on end, and she was good. So good, in fact, that the boys in the neighborhood couldn’t afford to play her like a girl. They would push her and shove her, elbow her and trip her. Rodgers remembers all the bloody noses, and she still has scars on her legs from those games today.
“If you come out there and play, they’ll knock your head off,” she said. “So that’s why I think I’m physically strong. I don’t complain about injuries or nothing.”View Entire Story
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