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Sweet-shooting Sugar pours it in
What a difference a year makes.
Last November, Sugar Rodgers was just another incoming freshman on a relatively low-profile team coming off of an NIT season. But after leading the Hoyas in scoring with 17.6 points per game in her freshman campaign and setting the school record for three-pointers in a season with 83, the 5-foot-11 shooting guard has made a name for herself—and for the team—in a Big East conference that has consistently been dominated by Geno Auriemma’s Connecticut Huskies.
The Hoyas established themselves with their suffocating defense, but they could not have reached such heights without their wunderkind guard.
“Of course the addition of Sugar Rodgers just makes your team even better,” head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said.
Now, Rodgers is the reigning Big East Rookie of the Year and owns a spot on the First Team All-Big East squad and the Honorable Mention All-American list. Though only a freshman, she was last year’s team’s leader and talisman—along with then-junior guard Monica McNutt—guiding the Hoyas to a 26-7 record and a (still standing) 15-game winning streak at home in McDonough Gymnasium.
The rest of the conference has taken notice. The Hoyas enter the season ranked 13th nationally, which makes it very difficult for them to sneak up on anybody.
“We have a target on our back now,” Rodgers said. “Last year we didn’t.”
Opposing teams figure they ought to focus primarily on stopping Rodgers. But Rodgers, for her part, says the increased attention hasn’t affected her preparation for the season. Now the team’s co-captain, she spent the offseason working on her midrange offensive game and familiarizing herself with Williams-Flournoy’s full-court pressure defense—two of her few weaknesses last year.
Still, it was obvious to anyone who watched the Hoyas last season that Rodgers’s game doesn’t need much improvement. Even more so than last year, Rodgers is at the center of what the Hoyas do on the court.
Improving her mental toughness and maturing as a leader, she says, are more important than any adjustments she’s made to her jumper or knowledge of defensive schemes. No longer the flying under the radar as a freshman, Rodgers—along with fellow co-captain McNutt—is the heart and soul of this year’s young team.
She credits McNutt more than anyone else for helping her evolve as a leader and helping her keep her personal successes and failures in perspective, likening her to a big sister. Their bond is apparent to everyone around the team.
“[McNutt and Rodgers] have always had this ridiculous connection,” Barbara Barnes, the team’s sports information director said. “Moni is an amazing role model for her.”
While Rodgers led the team in scoring last year, McNutt, the team’s lone senior, is a more vocal leader. The Hoyas’ hopes to advance past the second round of the NCAA tournament this year rest squarely on the dynamic backcourt that they make up.
Whether they satisfy or fall short of those expectations is largely up to Rodgers and her almost effortless ability to score the basketball.
“I have a huge role,” Rodgers said. “I have to lead us on the court, kind of like I did last year, but now I’m just doing it as a sophomore.”