Washington center Regina Rogers tries to reshape her career, family history
Huskies sophomore center Regina Rogers is daughter of Reggie Rogers.
Seattle Times staff reporter
UW vs. Oregon St., 8:15 p.m.
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Parental instinct is to shield your children.
Sheila Winston, mother of Washington center Regina Rogers, could have guided her daughter away from the family's past. The cherub-faced young woman is just like her mother — she loves to switch eye color with contacts, wear designer clothes to parties and spend time with family.
Family. That's the issue for Regina Rogers.
Drugs, death and disappointment are as much a part of the family's history as talent, titles and triumphs. You only need to swish the name Regina Rogers around in your head before it comes flooding forward.
"Isn't she the daughter of Reggie Rogers?"
Yes, Winston could have steered her daughter clear of sports. Or away from the University of Washington. Instead, she instilled pride and a dose of reality.
Now, as Washington prepares for the Pac-10 tournament in Los Angeles, Rogers, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, is in the middle of the Huskies' lineup. She has the spirit of her mother, but she's still her father's daughter.
"I feel like in high school I made a name for myself," said Rogers, who was the 2006 Class 3A state tournament MVP at Chief Sealth. "But I'll probably always be in his shadow because I have his name and people say I look like him with a wig."
Go ahead and laugh. It's a truth Regina has the strength to stomach.
When Rogers snarls to the rafters of Edmundson Pavilion, she's the spitting image of Reggie.
Reggie Rogers, who played basketball and football at UW, won the Morris Trophy as the Pac-10's top defensive lineman in 1986. He was the seventh overall pick in the 1987 NFL draft, by the Detroit Lions.
But he is regarded as one of the NFL's biggest busts after a trail of legal problems. In 1990, he was sentenced to 16 to 24 months for negligent homicide after the car he was driving in October 1988 killed three teenagers in Pontiac, Mich. Sheila, then married to Reggie, wept at the sentencing.
He was released after serving 12 ½ months. Rogers, who had suffered a broken neck in the accident, signed with the Buffalo Bills but played only two games with them in 1991 and two more with Tampa Bay in 1992 before his NFL career ended.
Rogers, who lives in the Seattle area, has repeatedly declared he has changed. But in June 2009 he was sentenced to two years for two different DUI accidents in the fall of 2008 on Interstate 5 in South King County. It was the latest in a string of arrests for DUI, assault and other criminal traffic violations. His sentence was reduced and he has been released.
"He's working on getting his life together," said Chester Dorsey, Regina's uncle. "I don't wish bad on anybody. Everybody goes through things in life. The only thing I didn't like was that everybody was kissing his ass when he was out there playing, now he's in trouble and everyone is trying to distance themselves. If you're family, you take care of family no matter what."
Dorsey filled the "father" role in the meantime. His sister, Sheila, gave birth to twins in November 1988, a month after her husband's tragic accident. She named them in his honor, Regina and son Reginald Jr. She turned also to her mother Cora for support.
The twins were inseparable, but didn't know their father as a player. They were just 3 years old when his NFL career ended. He made other attempts to rejoin the league, but alcohol consumed him.
People whispered about the twins, and their troubled father. Regina thought attending UCLA would distance her from the past, even though an uncle, Don Rogers, had been an All-American safety for the Bruins who died in 1986 of a heart attack from a cocaine overdose.
Only it didn't. When her grandmother, Cora Dorsey, passed in 2007, Rogers felt the pull to return home after her freshman season at UCLA. She was on the Pac-10's honorable mention freshman team in 2007-08, averaging 6.3 points and 4.3 rebounds.
After Rogers came home and enrolled at UW, she was engulfed by family again as she grieved. That made it easier to handle more pain as her father continued to make news. But Rogers admitted the passion for basketball died for a while with her grandmother.
"It's hard growing up in the limelight, a lot of people don't understand everything that goes on," said Regina, whose mother married Edward Winston when the twins were in junior high school. "I was lucky to have a family and now teammates who support me and are behind me. I remember at a young age being followed by the news and being asked questions and not really knowing how to answer because I'm 7 or 6."
Chester Dorsey played basketball at Washington from 1974 to 1977 and ranks second in career assists. He placed the twins in sports, and watched their obvious talents develop.
Dorsey also coached them. He placed Regina on the boys traveling basketball team, knowing the girls wouldn't be a challenge for her. He chuckles at a memory of Regina as a high-school senior blowing past NBA player Michael Dickerson in a one-on-one game at the Jewish Community Center.
"He came over and said he's never played a woman that's been that strong," Dorsey said of Dickerson. "She took him up like he was a piece of paper."
Because of that talent, Dorsey is mindful of the pitfalls.
"I know what Regina can do," said Dorsey, who stopped coaching the twins when they were teenagers. "It's just now, how do we put the package together? If you watch Stanford, they put Jayne Appel in position to score. She's not better than Regina athletically, but she's smart. When she gets the ball, she's got a couple of moves she can score with. I'll bet everything I have that if you give Regina 20 shots a game, she'll get you 30 points and 10 rebounds."
Back in the game
During the 2008-09 season, when Rogers was ineligible at UW due to NCAA transfer rules, Washington coach Tia Jackson touted the raw center as the key ingredient to turn around what became an unacceptable 8-22 season — a record that matched the worst in UW history.
Rogers was going to be a force inside, Jackson would explain after losses. Rogers would bring some excitement back to the court, the coach repeated to any media willing to listen.
But this season, even if Rogers was playing well at the start of games, Jackson would pull her three minutes into every contest, like clockwork. The coach blames Rogers' poor conditioning, and the player agrees that a three-month bout with pneumonia in December 2008 slowed her development.
"We couldn't touch her," Jackson said in defense of why coaches didn't prepare Rogers for this season.
The twins were born premature and have a low blood-cell count, which makes them more susceptible to winter illnesses. Rogers' mother helps with vitamins and Regina has eliminated fast food from her diet, dropping about 20 pounds this season.
"With Regina, she seems to be coming around pretty good," Jackson said. "But she needs to continue to buy into what she has been and we'll see the results we want."
Lately, Rogers breaks through defenders like flapping doors of a rickety saloon.
Connecting on layins despite double-teams, she turns and roars, finally seeing what kind of sheriff she can be in her neighborhood — the paint.
She averaged 15.6 points and 4.6 rebounds as the Huskies closed the regular season with three victories. Her play against undersized Washington State was the highlight. Playing a career-high 28 minutes, she was 9 for 14 from the floor and scored a career-high 23 points.
For the season, she averages 8.3 points and 4.1 rebounds.
"Regina has great potential with her size and her strength," said Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer. "But she limits herself. She has great hands, great feet. But whenever we've played them (Washington) the conditioning is something we try to take advantage of.
"Very few players really work on their game very hard when they get to college. A lot of them are just satisfied with getting a college scholarship, having a training table and flying. Great players are the ones that put in the extra time and enjoy the process of improving."
Rogers gives a look of determination when asked if she's willing.
Her lack of conditioning, mixed with teammates' injuries, led to the Huskies' motto of "Bigger and Better" not having the bang fans expected. Yet, if the renewed dedication to basketball holds, she might be able to change her family's legacy while leading the Huskies (12-16, 7-11 Pac-10) back to prominence in the conference.
"Regina is a big-bodied post, but you wouldn't expect her to take you off the dribble and cross you up," said sophomore forward Mollie Williams. "She will. She's not afraid to use any aspect of her game."
Rogers agreed. It is, after all in her blood.
Sheila wears her daughter's face on a T-shirt and sits to the right of the Huskies' bench for every home game. Regina's father, who stays in contact by phone, has attended some matchups at Edmundson Pavilion, where he shined on the court from 1983 to 1985 before focusing solely on football.
"My mother was always straightforward in telling me what was going on," said Regina, whose parents declined to be interviewed for this story. "It helped me a lot because I grew up understanding about the media. My dad and I had to rekindle (a relationship). But he's a great guy, so it wasn't hard to do at all. My dad is really goofy, like me."
And now that Regina has faced her family history, she can learn how to reshape it.
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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