About five weeks ago, Maryland women's basketball coach Brenda Frese called senior guard Kim Rodgers into her office.
Rodgers, who ranks seventh all-time in 3-pointers made, averaged more than 20 minutes in her sophomore and junior seasons. But with young talent such as ACC Player of the Year Alyssa Thomas, All-ACC honorable mention Laurin Mincy and freshman point guard Brene Moseley blossoming, Rodgers saw her playing time dwindle to its lowest point in four seasons.
Rodgers said Frese noticed her acting "distracted, a little bit distant."
"I was struggling a little bit with the new role and not playing as much. I had been concerned about it for a while," Rodgers said. "[Frese] brought me in just to make sure that I hadn't checked out."
Frese assured Rodgers that although her minutes had tailed off, her importance to the team had not. The coach reminded her senior guard that her time would come.
"I was teetering on whether or not I was even valuable to this team anymore," Rodgers said. "For [Frese] to come in and tell me that I was [valuable] really helped me to stay focused."
The rejuvenated Rodgers responded with quality work off the bench, including 10 minutes, two rebounds and an assist to help hand Duke its lone ACC loss.
As the games grew in significance, so, too, did Rodgers' presence. In the ACC tournament championship game against Georgia Tech, Rodgers employed what has become her patented move - the back-to-back 3-pointer. She finished with a season-high 10 points, shooting 2 for 2 from the field and 4 for 4 from the foul line to help the Terrapins win the conference title.
Rodgers has continued to be key through the first two games in the NCAA tournament. Against Navy, the young Terps looked jittery in the opening minutes. It appeared as if fifth-ranked Maryland (30-4) would follow the Duke men's lead and become another No. 2-seeded ACC team to fall to a No. 15-seeded Patriot League team.
But with five minutes remaining in the first half, Rodgers sank back-to-back 3-pointers, and Moseley hit a third to give Maryland breathing room.
"I'm so proud of Kim," Frese said after the game. "It takes a selfless kid, a kid that's a winner, to be able to accept the role that she's been given on this team. You see what she's doing. She helped lead us to an ACC championship, and those threes today were timely."
With Thomas in foul trouble in Monday's second-round game against Louisville, Rodgers played a season-high 22 minutes. She scored six points but more importantly provided solid defense, including a loose-ball rebound with about 20 seconds left in the 72-68 nail-biter.
"A lot of times you don't see what Kim does on a stat sheet," Frese said after the Terps defeated the Cardinals. "But gosh, when she's on the floor, what a difference she makes for us defensively."
Maryland will need Rodgers to continue providing a spark off the bench when it faces Texas A&M in the round of 16 Sunday in Raleigh, N.C. Rodgers said her performance in the Terps' past three games has been a reminder that "there's a place for everyone to contribute."
"When you're not playing and a coach says, 'there is a role for you on this team,' some players are like 'whatever' because you don't see it right then," Rodgers said. "But that really hit it home for me. For us to win, everybody did have to be locked in and we had to be 12 strong.
"It makes me feel like all the times when I was patient and I did the work behind the scenes, just coming in on off days to work out, it makes it all worth it."
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