Sugar Rodgers emerges from toilsome roots to lead Hoyas
Between Barbara Mae’s death and her high school graduation, Rodgers was never in one place for more than eight months at a time. Her father, Oscar Allen Saunders, Jr., was 80 years old, married and living in Portsmouth. When he refused to take Rodgers in, she spent a few months here and a few months there, living with two cousins, an aunt, a coach and others.
One of the nephews Sugar grew up with, Vanshawn Rodgers, has faced numerous felony charges, including marijuana distribution and illegal possession of a firearm, and is still incarcerated today. Uncle Junie, who first called his niece “Sugar” when she was young, died of a stroke in 2007. And one of Rodgers‘ closest friends and nephews, Keshawn, died in a car accident the summer before she enrolled at Georgetown.
DeShawn, now 28, is scheduled to be released from prison April 8, 2013. After their father’s funeral in July, he assured his younger sister that he would do whatever it takes to stay out of trouble and help her succeed. Sharon, who served 10 years for distributing cocaine, agreed.
“[Sugar] just let me know that if you set out to do anything, anything in the world that you want to do, it’s possible to do it,” said Sharon, who now works as a nurse in Suffolk. “Don’t let hurdles get in your way and stop you — keep going. Keep going, keep pushing forward.”
Rodgers has battled through tough circumstances all her life — 23 years which, as Williams said, “ain’t been a fairy tale.” But those circumstances have helped mold her into a strong person off the court, and an even more formidable opponent on it.
Rodgers has had to assume more of a leadership role this season for a 7-4 Georgetown squad that lost seven seniors from a year ago. She’s taking the most shots — 33 percent — but making them, too. Her experiences in life have given Rodgers the one characteristic that all great scorers have to have: confidence.
“I always told Sugar that the only person that can stop her is herself,” Williams-Flournoy said. “Sugar’s just the type of player where if she doesn’t want to be guarded, if she wants to get open, if she wants to make a move to the basket, she’s going to do that whenever she wants to do it.”
‘All the kids love Sug’
Rodgers never struggled at school, but she struggled to find motivation. In high school, she would roll out of bed, check into her first block and leave, either to go back to sleep or practice her jump shot at a local rec center.
“I’m not going to say it was a joke,” she said, “but it was a joke.”
“The bad part about it was there was really nobody there to make her do it,” said Williams-Flournoy, who left Georgetown for Auburn in April. “Nobody made it of any importance and told her the importance of bringing home an A instead of a C.”
When Rodgers first enrolled at Georgetown, her class attendance was monitored by the university. She sought help from the writing center, academic advisers, tutors and professors. Today, she is two classes away from an English degree with minors in sociology and theology.
“Everybody takes responsibility for Ta’Shauna ‘Sugar’ Rodgers,” first-year Hoyas coach Keith Brown said. “When you talk to her instructors, you talk to the administration, everybody has a chapter in the book.”
“There’s a lot of resources here,” Rodgers added. “There’s no room to fail.”