By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
Homesickness turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to Regina Rogers.
Four years after leaving UCLA to return to her hometown, the Seattle native is thriving as a senior on the University of Washington women’s basketball team.
“I still believe (UW) was the best place for me at that time,” she said of her decision to transfer after her freshman year at UCLA. “I love my team. I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’m glad I made this choice.”
Not only is Rogers among the Pacific-12 Conference’s top players in scoring (15.8 points per game, third in the conference), rebounding (8.1, seventh) and field-goal percentage (62.2, first), but she’s also on track to earn a degree in sociology. She one day hopes to open a Boys &Girls Club near where she grew up in the Rainier Beach area of South Seattle, or maybe start a home for under-privileged children.
But first she has a few more games at UW, including tonight’s return trip — her final one — to UCLA.
“It’s going to be emotional,” Rogers said this week. “It’s my last actual time playing there. Going back is always a little emotional.”
Rogers has blossomed into quite a player since leaving UCLA.
Despite growing up in a Husky family that included a father, Reggie, and uncle, Chester Dorsey, that were both UW athletes, she headed south to play alongside Chief Sealth High School teammate Christina Nzekwe and soak up the sun and glitz of L.A. But homesickness and other health problems led Rogers back to Seattle, even though she knew she would be playing in the shadow of a father that had plenty of success in basketball and football arenas but has had a tough life off of it.
“There’s not a day that goes by where an older person doesn’t walk by and ask if I’m his daughter,” she said this week of her father, a former NFL player who in September was sentenced to one year in prison after receiving his sixth driving-under-the-influence charge. “A lot of professors are here from when my father was here, and they say my name and look at me and say: ‘Are you Reggie’s daughter?’ I mean, I hear it all the time.
“I grew up with it, both my uncle and my father. Being compared to them, I love it. I love being known for my father and my uncle. Whatever happened outside of athletics, I can’t control. But being an athlete, I’m happy to be compared to them.”
While Dorsey used to coach Regina’s youth teams and regularly attends UW games, Reggie Rogers has watched his daughter’s growth from afar.
“I don’t see him much, but I know he’s proud of me,” she said. “He calls me sometimes. A lot of his friends have kids that play (basketball), and they tell him what’s going on.”
On the basketball court, Regina Rogers has been making a name for herself at UW. After sitting out the 2008-09 season under NCAA transfer rules, Rogers has battled nagging injuries and shortened playing time due in part to a physique that has often been compared to that of her defensive lineman father. But her conditioning has improved to the point that Rogers was able to play a career-high 37 minutes in Saturday’s narrow loss to Arizona State.
“She was a hard worker from the start,” teammate Mackenzie Argens said. “I know people give her (guff) sometimes for not being the fastest on the floor, but she never gives up. She is a hard worker. On the court, off the court, she’s a hard worker.”
One of the first things new coach Kevin McGuff noticed upon arriving at UW — he had never seen Rogers play before signing a contract last spring — was that Rogers was easily the most talented frontcourt player but that her minutes had always been limited. He set out to get her into playing shape, and Rogers responded by giving him her full effort.
“She hasn’t fought us on anything,” said McGuff, who replaced Tia Jackson as coach in April. “She’s a good kid; I like coaching her. As much as anything, maybe she, more than anyone, benefited from a fresh start.”
In a way, Rogers has gotten two fresh starts as a college player. And now that her career is winding down, she’s hoping to have put UW on the path toward returning to the glory years that the women’s program experienced while she was growing up in Seattle.
“That would mean a lot from me,” she said. “I grew up a Husky. All my family was Huskies. So to start something new, after what they’ve done in the past, and be able to create something new is really meaningful to me.”