The Rhode Island women's basketball team will depart for its trip to Portugal and Spain on Friday, Aug. 25. Leading up to trip, GoRhody.com will have a series of question-and-answer pieces with the team's newcomers.
The series begins today with guard Jessica Rogers from Rutherford, N.J. Initially headed to Air Force to play basketball and volleyball, Rogers signed with Rhode Island in April during the late signing period. The 6-1 guard averaged nearly 18 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, four blocks and three steals per game during her senior season for Rutherford.
What was it about Rhode Island that made you want to play here?
The family feel to the program grabbed me. Everyone has a set goal in mind. The motto we are following is "Remember Your Why." It seems like everyone is motivated in their own ways, but toward one main purpose for the team.
You mentioned the team motto of "Remember Your Why." What is your why?
For me, it is mainly my siblings. My siblings are both younger, so I have had to take the older sibling role. I took on that role model task on at a young age. A lot of people – when they play – will write names on their shoes for motivation. I've been fortunate where I don't have any one person who I have lost. I've had a really good life in that regard, and I think it's really important to never take that for granted.
What does the sport of basketball mean to you?
I've been a dual-sport athlete most of my life, with basketball and volleyball. When I was in the Air Force Academy prep school, I planned on playing both. So I never really had to make my mind up on which sport to play until I had to transfer. For me, it came down to the fact that I have been playing basketball longer. My favorite sports movies were all about basketball. I've never thought I could play Division I volleyball. Volleyball was a hobby. Basketball has always been what I did.
You have been described as an adrenaline junkie. Where does that stem from?
I wanted to be an astronaut from a very young age. I was always the daredevil kid. Growing up with my cousins, if we went to a park and were on the swings, I was the one flipping off the swing, and they were the ones jumping off. When I tried to think about more realistic career paths, joining the Air Force to become a pilot seemed more attainable than becoming an astronaut. That is what led to decision to enrolling there. Now that I am here, I can channel my energy into basketball. In pressure situations where adrenaline is a factor, I've always been able to channel that well.
You were recruited by a number of different schools, and you were headed to the Air Force initially. What was it about Rhode Island that stood out as the place to come?
Honestly, the first thing that stood out was the visit to the Ryan Center. A lot of my visits were cool, but this one was like, "Wow!" On top of that, I felt like I could make an impact here. I want to build a team. I didn't want to be a piece of a program. I want to be a big part of making a program what it is.
If you look at the number of new faces coming in this year, so many of you have a pedigree of success. Have you picked up on that mentality and drive for success in the other women around you here?
Definitely. We are all pushing each other so hard. I've never been on a team that pushes each other like this. The people on this team trying to motivate each other in ways that we all seem responsive to. When you all have that same type of mentality, it makes things a lot easier. At other levels, if you were to yell at someone, they might take it personal. But here, it's more like, "Get over it. We are on to the next thing." That helps.
What is the biggest thing that has surprised you so far here?
The level of talent that Coach La-Force brought in. The freshmen and the transfers – Davida Dale and Erin Jones – they are in it. We are going to be good this year, and we can see it's only going to grow from there knowing that those two are there waiting.
From a player's perspective, how exciting is the upcoming trip to Portugal and Spain?
I've never been out of the country, so I am really excited. I've always wanted to be able to travel the world. But to be able to do that and play basketball at the same time? That is a dream.