In four years on the Georgetown women’s basketball team, Sugar Rodgers has become the central figure of the most prosperous era in program history. The three-time captain has been the go-to player on three consecutive NCAA tournament participants, helped the Hoyas become a regular in the top 25 rankings and left her mark as one of the top scorers in Big East history.
But with Georgetown in transition these days because of injuries to a roster comprising mostly underclassmen, Rodgers for the first time is more of a teacher, mentoring understudies such as promising freshman Dominique Vitalis during the Hoyas’ first year under Coach Keith Brown.
“I think she’s done a wonderful job teaching, but [her teammates] probably didn’t do a wonderful job listening,” Brown said.
That doesn’t make circumstances such as Monday night’s 63-35 loss to South Florida at McDonough Gym any less frustrating, but following the final regular season game of her decorated career, Rodgers preferred to reflect on a legacy that vaulted Georgetown onto the national landscape in spite of the program’s recent travails.
The Hoyas’ all-time scoring leader, men or women, finished with a game-high 20 points, including 15 in the second half, to lock up the Big East scoring title for the first time. It was the fourth time in five games the fourth-leading scorer in the country has recorded at least 20 points this season.
“That’s a big one. That means a lot,” Rodgers said of her career points record of 2,450 and counting. “Hopefully I get my jersey retired. That would be even more [special], but that’s in the future. I mean, that means a lot. There’s been so many great players here, Allen Iverson, Alonzo Mourning, but just to be the leading scorer men and women, it’s deep.”
Leaving behind a hardscrabble upbringing in Suffolk, Va., Rodgers made her way to Georgetown (14-15, 5-11 Big East) thanks to encouragement primarily from former Hoyas coach Terri Williams-Flournoy, who left abruptly following last season to take the same job at Auburn. During their time together at Georgetown, the Hoyas won at least 23 games for three consecutive seasons, including a school-record 26 in 2009-10.
That’s also the season in which Rodgers set the school single-season record for points (653). That mark is in danger of falling in the near future, with Rodgers having accumulated 643 points and the Hoyas assured of least one game in the Big East tournament that begins Friday in Hartford, Conn.
Rodgers has four of the top six single-season point totals in school history and is the only player to have amassed more than 2,000 points in her career. The next closest is Kris Witfill, who scored 1,885 points from 1989 through 1993.
Rodgers also is Georgetown’s career leader in three-point field goals made, although her shooting from beyond the arc was erratic in the early going Monday as the Bulls (20-9, 9-7) double-teamed her virtually every time the ball was in her hands.
But for a stretch in the second half, the three-time first-team all-conference selection was nearly unguardable, swishing three three-pointers in a row. The first came immediately after one fan bellowed, “Will someone please set a screen for Sugar Rodgers?”
Then as if on cue, Rodgers got the ball on the left side of the arc and made the shot to trigger a run that proved little more than cosmetic to an outcome in almost no doubt after South Florida took a 24-8 halftime lead. No surprise either that Rodgers provided the only highlight for the Hoyas in the first half when she almost had the ball stolen, tapped it back to herself, dribbled into the lane and got an off-balance scoop shot to fall.
“I think Sugar has meant everything to this program,” Brown said. “The biggest thing we’re disappointed is with this team and how they responded to her senior year. Unfortunately Sugar doesn’t have the help that she needed.”