When they arrive on the Hilltop for the first time, Georgetown freshmen typically find that their new classmates are very accomplished young men and women, having already achieved magnificence in the classroom, on the field and in various outside activities. Georgetown’s students are certainly not outsiders to greatness.
Ta’Shauna Rodgers, like her classmates, boasted an impressive résumé. The shooting guard was among the ESPN top-30 players in the class of 2009. She was a McDonald’s All-American after playing high school basketball at King’s Fork in Suffolk, Va., and Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball for Boo Williams, the brother of Georgetown women’s basketball Head Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy. Rodgers’ close relationship with the Williams family would lead the fifth-ranked shooting guard to bring her three-point stroke to the Hilltop, disappointing The University of Virginia and Virginia Tech, among other schools watching Rodgers.
Rodgers’ closeness to Georgetown was the Hoyas’ full gain, as the 5-foot-11 sharp shooter exploded onto the national stage at Nike Nationals prior to her senior year, earning the title of 2009 tournament MVP. With her relationship already cemented with the Williams’ family, Georgetown stood out to Rodgers for other reasons.
“I chose Georgetown because the academics are high; it’s in a great place like D.C.,” Rodgers said, “And the women’s basketball team plays in the Big East conference.”
The Big East boasted two of the top three teams in the country – Connecticut and Notre Dame – when Rodgers arrived, while Georgetown was still finding its feet, coming off a run in the NIT after years of mediocre play.
Rodgers spent the summer getting acclimated to her new home on the Hilltop and bonding with her teammates.
“I came to watch [the women’s team] play, but the summertime was when I got to know a majority of the team.” Rodgers said.
Rodgers, one of three freshmen on the team, became an immediate starter, and she didn’t disappoint. The accomplishments are steep; among them, honorable mention All-American by the Associated Press, one of just five freshmen to earn that honor. Rodgers also led the team with 17.6 points per game while being the top scorer in 24 games. Rodgers set the program record for three-pointers in a season with 83 and ranks fourth in program history for points scored in a season with 574. Aside from becoming just the second Hoya to be an AP All-American, she was named to the first team all-Big East, won Big East rookie of the week five times and won Big East Freshman of the Year, just the third Lady Hoya to achieve that feat. Rodgers also finished third on the team in steals and assists. That, all while being a workhorse: Rodgers led the team in minutes played, the only player, let alone freshman, to average over 30 minutes per game.
Quite the résumé. What more could a freshman want in her first season?
“I figure I just need to work on a mid-range game,” Rodgers said, before adding, “I thought my defense was a little dead this year, but it’s going to get better in the years that I have left. I’m going to improve on that.”
If improvement is possible for Rodgers, then it only bodes well for Georgetown.
The Hoyas ascended to 12th in the national rankings, finishing third in the rough Big East after being picked to finish eighth and earned a No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament, the first appearance in the Big Dance for the Lady Hoyas since 1993 when Rodgers were just a toddler.
“I thought we had a great season. I’m judging that we had a great season. It could have been better; we could have done some things to make it better,” Rodgers said. “I learned that its competition every game, you can’t slack off any game and you have to bring it every game.” The Hoyas did just that, defeating Rutgers, St. John’s and Notre Dame – all of which boasted a freshman recruit ranked higher than Rodgers by ESPN – in convincing fashion.
By the end of the year, the Hoyas were one of five Big East teams ranked in the top 25, and the conference would send eight teams to the NCAA tournament, none more surprising than the Hoyas.
“[Making the NCAA tournament] was my goal,” Rodgers said, “There were two freshmen on the [men’s basketball] team saying [at the beginning of the year] that we were going to the NIT and they were going to the [NCAA] tournament, so I said we have to go to the [NCAA] tournament,” Rodgers finished, laughing.
Rodgers and the Hoyas would fall in the second round to the Baylor Bears, led by the top-ranked freshman in the country: 6’8″ center Brittney Griner. Rodgers said she would like a rematch between her and Griner next year.
“Of course,” Rodgers said, half-laughing, half-serious, “Next year it will be more competitive.”
That is certainly true for Rodgers and the Hoyas, who have been picked to start the season ranked 12th in the nation, putting a lot of pressure on the rising sophomore and her team, pressure that didn’t exist at the beginning of the 2009-2010 season. Rodgers isn’t deterred.
“I mean, we want the pressure, because the pressure makes the game fun,” Rodgers said.
The pressure will also be on Rodgers herself, whose award-filled freshman season will naturally call for an encore performance. A difficult task, considering Rodgers scored in double-figures in 30 of her team’s 33 games, while shooting 40 percent from the field and 33 percent from beyond the arc.
“My goal is to go back to the tournament, to go farther in the tournament, to have a better record and beat some top-ranked teams,” Rodgers said, remaining team-focused.
Those goals show just how far Rodgers and the Hoyas have come. Rodgers, who let her play do the talking for her throughout the season, will now be counted on to become a leader. It should be no problem for the shy guard, who has spent the last two years surprising the college basketball world – first at the Nike tournament and then the with an historic and stellar freshman season at Georgetown.