Sugar Rodgers
(Photo courtesy of the WNBA)

WNBA All-Star and New York Liberty shooter Sugar Rodgers is one of many women’s hoops stars taking in the program.

Geoff Magliocchetti

New York Liberty guard Sugar Rodgers is taking her story beyond New York this offseason.

Rodgers is one of many women’s basketball stars partaking in “Her Time To Play”, an initiative that kicked off the fourth annual Jr. NBA Week, which runs through Monday. According to a league-issued statement, Her Time To Play will “inspire girls ages 7-14 to learn and play basketball in a positive and healthy way, and increase opportunities for women in coaching and athletic leadership”.

In conjunction with the WNBA, USA Basketball, and several other athletic organizations, Her Time To Play will provide hundreds of youth organizations with a free program book that includes stories and life lessons from modern-day women’s basketball stars, including Rodgers.

Consisting of 12 chapters, each segment of the curriculum will approach a different topic, headlined by the participation of a WNBA player. Each of the league’s dozen team is represented, with Rodgers showing up for the Liberty.

“We remain committed to doing all we can to improve the overall youth basketball experience and ensure that more young boys and girls learn the lifelong values of the game,” said Kathy Behrens, the NBA President, Social Responsibility and Player Programs. “Her Time To Play will provide young women with the resources they need to be the best athletes and people they can be, and help them navigate what can be challenging times in their lives.”

Rodgers’ chapter focuses on “Diversity-Respect/Tolerance.” In an essay entitled ” Diversity Means Everyone is Different-And That’s Okay,” Rodgers details growing up in Suffolk, Virginia, and how basketball kept her off a path of drugs and crime.

“Basketball saved me. I avoided falling into the same hopeless traps as friends and others I grew up with by working hard and developing my talent,” Rodgers writes. “Staying in the gym didn’t just make me a better basketball player—it also kept me busy, off the streets and focused on my goal of becoming a college athlete. And I did it—I became a Hoya at Georgetown University!”

College began as an uncomfortable time for Rodgers, who wrote that her early time on campus felt like “an alternate universe.”

“I thought I was “too black” to be part of the college, which had mostly white students,” she said. “The clothes I wore, the way I talked, my accent—it all made me feel like I wasn’t proper Sugar Rodgers TEAM New York Liberty POSITION Guard CLAIM TO FAME WNBA All-Star and Woman of the Year Chapter Nine 135 Ages 7-10 Her Time To Play enough. Everything about me seemed different from other students. It hurt deep down inside.”

However, Rodgers received a boost from a familiar source: her mother Barbara Mae.

Tragically, Barbara Mae never got to see Sugar suit up for the Hoyas or Liberty, as she passed away from lupus when Sugar was 15. However, her legacy was kept alive through her daughter, who made a piece of Barbara Mae’s advice eternal.

“She’s still always by my side,” Rodgers wrote. “When I was feeling sad in college, her spirit reminded me that I was enough. She had taught me to accept my uniqueness. I started to believe that I belonged. That helped me look around and see that there were people who accepted me at Georgetown. I’d see students who were in my class cheering for me at games.”

“I’ve learned that everybody feels different in their own way. I respect those differences because I know how it hurts to feel unwelcome. Today, if a little girl tells me she doesn’t fit in, I share my mom’s words with her: ‘You are enough!'”

Rodgers would go on to become the most prolific scorer in Georgetown history, both at the men’s and women’s level. In four years with the Hoyas, she accumulated 2,518 points, besting both Sleepy Floyd and Patrick Ewing. She took Georgetown women’s basketball to unexpected new summits, leading them to their highest-ever finish on the Coaches’ Poll, ranking 14th at the end of the 2010-11 season, her junior year. A four-time First Team All-Big East player, Rodgers also excelled in the classroom, where she majored in English and was a three-time AP Honorable Mention All-American.

Rodgers’ chapter also reveals her favorite healthy snacks, which include Vegan Impossible Burgers and So Delicious coconut milk ice cream sandwiches.

After her successful tenure in Georgetown, Rodgers was chosen in the second round (14th overall) in the 2013 WNBA Draft by the Minnesota Lynx, before a 2014 trade sent her to the New York Liberty. She made her first WNBA All-Star team in 2017, earning that season’s Sixth Woman of the Year Award as well. Rodgers has averaged 8.0 points and 2.8 rebounds over a six-year WNBA career thus far.

Other notable names in the book include WNBA MVP’s Elena Delle Donne and Nneka Ogwumike. Former Liberty center Carolyn Swords, currently of the Las Vegas Aces, also appears in the book, headlining the chapter “Caring For Your Body.”

For more on Her Time to Play, click here.

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