Michelle Smith Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Feature: USC's Endyia Rogers
Endyia Rogers and the USC women’s basketball team are finally healthy and figuring it out. After a COVID-mandated pause that set them back to start the season, combined with some early-season injuries to key players, the Women of Troy spent the first part of the season building and learning.
With five wins in their last seven games, it appears the figuring it out phase has begun, save for a hiccup last weekend against U.C. Riverside.
But as USC travels to the Bay Area this weekend to take on No. 5 Stanford, Rogers and her teammates are playing with a new rhythm and confidence.
“We have been getting more comfortable as we get people back,” said the Texas native. “Obviously we were coming off a great win (against Washington State) and we lost on Sunday, but we need to bounce back and go to Stanford and be focused on the task at hand.”
That task will be a big one against a Cardinal that is smarting from last Sunday’s loss to Colorado that cost Stanford its unbeaten record and its No. 1 national ranking. But another factor in USC’s favor is that the Cardinal have to take on UCLA Friday night, while USC gets to rest and watch and prepare. USC’s schedule game against Cal has been postponed as the Bears deal with COVID-related issues.
“We need the extra time to prepare for Stanford,” said USC coach Mark Trakh. “All of that Princeton stuff they run is really hard to guard. We need time to prepare for all the options.”
Rogers, meanwhile, has turned into one of USC’s best options. The 5-foot-7 sophomore who started 31 games as a freshman last season, leads the team in scoring at 16.4 points a game, leading the team also in assists and 3-pointers made (25). Rogers' best scoring game this season was a 26-point effort against...Stanford, going 11-of-22 from the floor.
“She’s become more efficient shooting the ball,” Trakh said. “We wanted her to become more efficient. I thought last year she was too much of a volume shooter. She’s out best guard. She’s a good ball hander, and she defends and rebounds well.”
But Trakh admits that he challenges Rogers. To play faster and to play harder.
Rogers is familiar with challenges. Her father Jerome has been challenging her at home for years. In fact, this summer, in the Texas heat, he pushed her hard.
“At one point he put me in a sauna suit, but that didn’t work. It was too much,” Rogers said.
Rogers said she missed being able to run outside in the more mild California weather. She missed beach workouts.
“It was definitely different,” Rogers said. “I was supposed to be here in California, getting better, and instead I was at home in Texas trying to figure out if there was a place I could work out.”
But Rogers said she feels like she is starting to make the progress she was hoping to make last summer.
“I don’t think I’m all the way there,” Rogers said. “Last year, I didn’t like to shoot the pull up. As this year keeps progressing, I’ve been making more pull ups. One thing I’ve been getting better at is reading different coverages.”
Her team around her is progressing as well.
Guard Shalexxus Aaron was back on the floor for the first time since the 2018-19 season on Sunday against Riverside. On January 15, forward Alissa Pili returned to the lineup after missing 10 games with an ankle injury. Freshman Jordyn Jenkins missed the first eight games and made her debut on January 8 against Utah.
“Our chemistry isn’t all the way there yet,” Rogers said. “But I definitely do see moments. In the Washington State game we stayed together. We just need more time playing together.”
Rogers said her team’s goal is to reach the NCAA Tournament. USC missed a chance at a possible tournament berth a season ago after finishing 17-14 when the season was cancelled.
“I definitely hope we stay healthy because we want to win games. We want to go to the tournament. We want to make a run in the tournament. But we need to keep better and we need to come to play.”