For the past four years, Sugar Rodgers rarely gave playing time a second thought. From the time she set foot on Georgetown’s campus as one of the school’s most high-profile recruits and through a record-setting career, the versatile guard started all but one game and became the centerpiece of the program’s most prosperous stretch.
During her unprecedented run, Rodgers participated in the NCAA tournament three times, including an appearance in the Sweet 16, and finished as the school’s all-time scoring leader. Georgetown’s career leader in three-pointers also holds the school’s single-season record for points and is the only player in Hoyas history to be named first-team all-Big East four times.
These days, Rodgers is acclimating to an unfamiliar role as a rookie reserve with the Minnesota Lynx (2-0), who are in town Saturday night to face the Washington Mystics (2-1) at Verizon Center. The Lynx selected Rodgers with the No. 14 pick in the WNBA draft, and she played less than five minutes in her pro debut June 1 before logging nearly six minutes in Thursday’s 99-79 win over the Phoenix Mercury.
“I hope I get to play,” Rodgers said in a telephone interview after practice early this week. “But whether or not I get to play, I have to do my job, whether it’s on the bench cheering or in practice. I wouldn’t say it’s frustrating. I don’t want anybody to give me anything. I want to earn it.”
Rodgers is surrounded by teammates who weathered similar circumstances when they first entered the WNBA. Among the veterans Rodgers has been able to lean on for guidance during her transition is Rebekkah Brunson, who is Georgetown’s career leader in rebounding and in 2004 became its first all-American.
The Sacramento Monarchs drafted Brunson No. 10 overall that year, and she started one game as a rookie before contributing to a WNBA championship the following season. The three-time WNBA all-star out of Oxon Hill High School did not start in more than half of her games until her fourth year as a professional.
Lynx forward Devereaux Peters started twice as a rookie last season after a decorated career at Notre Dame in which she finished in the top 10 in school history in five categories.
Then there’s Monica Wright, Virginia’s all-time scoring leader. The guard-forward has been trying to re-energize her career since starting 24 of 34 games as a rookie in 2010. Over the last two-plus seasons combined, the 2006 All-Met Player of the Year from Forest Park has seven starts in 65 games.
“I just try to tell [Rodgers] to remember what got her here,” Brunson said. “She’s a great scorer, and she can really shoot the ball, so take advantage of the opportunity she gets. She doesn’t have to worry about making anything happen for herself. Just take advantage of the situation.”
Rodgers’s many milestones at Georgetown suggested she was in line to be drafted at least in the top 10, so she admitted to being somewhat confounded when her name wasn’t called until later. But upon learning she would be heading to Minnesota, Rodgers embraced the opportunity to play with and learn from the likes of Maya Moore, a former adversary at Connecticut, and other tested veterans such as Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus.
Last season, Rodgers was part of a young Georgetown team that absorbed significant injuries under first-year coach Keith Brown. The Hoyas missed the NCAA tournament for the only time in Rodgers’s career, but her senior season was rewarding on other levels because she was able to mentor younger players.
Now Rodgers is a pupil again.
“Unfortunately rookies make a lot of mistakes, and there’s a lot of criticizing and that sort of thing, but what I really enjoy about Sugar is she’s just been so open to learning and recognizes when she makes a mistake,” Lynx Coach Cheryl Reeve said. “So we just try to have patience. She’s got great teammates who hold her accountable and also help her. She’s been a really nice addition and a really nice fit for us.”