Photo by BGSU Marketing & Communications.
In a recent interview with Swish Appeal, Bowling Green State Falcons forward Alexis Rogers told the story of how she transferred from one of the nation's top programs to find happiness closer to her native Cincinnati, Ohio. After sitting out for a year per NCAA rules, Rogers was selected to the All-Mid-American Conference First Team last season and the Falcons are tied for first in the MAC's East Division so far this season, which all helps to bring her life and game into harmony with one another.
Bowling Green, OH -- The journey towards success can be a bumpy ride…a very bumpy ride.
And Alexis Rogers’ path towards success has had those well-known bumps in the road, but now in her second year at Bowling Green, she finally has found happiness.
Growing up in the suburbs of basketball-crazed Cincinnati, Rogers flourished -- burgeoning into a superstar. Becoming an All-State player, she led her Lakota West Firebirds to two consecutive Final Four appearances. Her versatility coupled with guard skills at 6-foot-1 had many schools from across the nation yearning for her services.
Even with so many overtures, there was one school that stood out and resonated: Duke University. And on June 25, 2008, after visiting the Blue Devils' campus unofficially, she committed. Filled with enthusiasm, Rogers embraced the platform of playing for the perennial power after high school.
But here is where she hit her first “bump.”
Everything was supposed to be magnificent and wonderful; however, it was not -- far from it actually. Though she was at the ACC power, Rogers was down and unhappy. The prestige of Duke’s campus could not fill the lingering void that was in her heart -- there was something that wasn’t right, something missing. For the first time in her entire life, Rogers was away from the very thing that mattered to her the most: family.
“When I left to go to Duke, I was 13 hours from home,” said Rogers. “So I was leaving my parents, my grandparents and my little cousins who were two and three [at the time]. We were pretty close knit; we all live(d) within five minutes of each other. So I went from being able to see them everyday, having all of them at all of my high school games -- to my mom (making) it (to) two games, my grandparents never made it down and I never saw my cousins. So that in general was hard especially being so close to my mom and brother.
“I would say that was the hardest part about it -- being so far away and actually talking to them on the phone almost made it worse. After I’d get off the phone, it was the big emotional breakdown not being there especially if it was a happy moment -- like a birthday or that first Thanksgiving that I didn’t go home, those were rough, rough, rough times.”
The usually reserved Rogers -- who rarely outwardly shows emotion -- was hurting on the inside. Even though she was dealing with a mild case of depression, she did the one thing she always had: she battled. After many long nights and lingering days at practice, Rogers called her mother to tell her that she was done, she’d had enough. So she came home in the summer with no intent of ever going back to the Durham, North Carolina campus.
“Throughout the season - after every game, win or lose - I always felt so, 'Like, ok we just won’ but I feel like I didn’t help, I didn’t do anything. And I had never ever in my life of playing basketball felt that way. So after the season, I’m going to quit.”
Although that was her sentiment at the time, her mother convinced her to give it one more try.
“Just give it another chance” her mother Youlanda stated.
Rogers relented and went back to the Blue Devils ready to prevail. She became very optimistic that she would find the joy that was evasive during her freshman year. With an open mind, a different outlook and mindset, it seemed like things would be on the upswing.
Then “bump” number two occurred.
Growing increasingly disillusioned by her place at Duke, Rogers still couldn’t fill that hollowness deep within her heart. With her grades falling, nothing seemed to be going right. And it all came to a head on a fateful day in the summer of 2010 while running the mile.
“One early morning at like 8 o’clock, as I’m running around the track -- running the mile, I was just thinking, ‘This is not where I want to be.’ And like halfway through, I just stopped, I went into the lockeroom, I cleared my locker out and I went home and I cried.
“I called my mom and I was like, ‘I hope you are sitting down right now.’ And she was like, ‘What’s wrong, what’s happened?’ And I was like, ‘I haven’t talked to the coaches yet, but I’m (leaving), I can’t stay [at Duke] anymore.'”
This time around, Rogers was not going to let anyone tell her otherwise. She had become resolute in learning from her mistake even if that was to tell her mother to take a step back. Ever the supportive mother, Youlanda did just that allowing her daughter do this her way. Rogers set one rule for her mother: you can’t talk to any of the coaches until I talk to them first.
“My first time coming out of high school, we went on visits and she asked all the questions," Alexis said. "This time (around) I knew what I was looking for as far as what I felt. When I left for (visits), I asked her to not come with me, not to talk to any coaches until I had talked to them first. And she respected that -- it was hard for her because she likes to help me, she wants to make sure I’m in the right spot.
“But I was at the age and at the point [in my life] where I wanted to do it for myself. So if it wasn’t a good fit, it was because of me and not anyone else.”
Once she had her release in tow, a litany of schools came far and wide for the former top-100 recruit -- but she was only focused on schools that could was close to her support system: Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Dayton, Mercer (mom was living in Georgia at the time) and Xavier. By her own admission, Rogers states that when talking to coaches, it’s “awkward.” Yet when Curt Miller -- then the head coach at Bowling Green -- called, the conversation flowed seamlessly.
That dialogue led to a visit where this time around, she had questions of her own: Can I major in education? What’s the offensive system like? Will the players embrace me? Once her one-day visit was over and after hanging out with the team, Rogers told the coaches that she would get back with them in the next few days. Those “next few days” turned into just an hour as she felt so comfortable with the Falcons, she called back with her verbal pledge.
And after sitting out a year, Rogers was back on the court and ready to dominate. She was the leading scorer on the team as they won the MAC East regular season title. In the midst of this type of success, things were finally in sync for her -- with the best on the horizon.
Then “bump” number three came to pass.
On March 28, 2012, the man that she had become very comfortable with, the one coach she connected with was hired at Indiana. Devastation set in; it was almost like deja vu.
“I was bummed when he left,” said Rogers. “I felt like after not being able to go into the offices to talk to Coach (Joanne P. McCallie), [I felt differently at Bowling Green]. If I was around Anderson (Arena) because it was conveniently located on campus, I would go up to the office and hang out with the coaches, I was like ‘I’m going to lose that now.’
“That was the saddest part for me."
She thought to herself, ‘I’ve already adjusted to change so much, I don’t want it to change again, I can’t take anymore change.”
Adversity had reared its ugly head again; her life which was finally tranquil became unsettled once again. Now Rogers had to play the waiting game as Bowling Green conducted a national search to replace Miller, the all-time winningest coach in Falcons history. Time came and went, with the remaining players in an upheaval on who would be the next to lead them. Ever the serene one, Rogers remained patient; she had an inkling of who the next coach would be even while others worried.
“During that whole process, I always felt like they were just interviewing [because of protocol], like I always felt like, ‘Why wouldn’t you keep it in house if (Coach Roos) was willing to stay and she’s been here since the program been on the rise?’ So I always felt like she was going to get the job. I wasn’t too worried because I knew she was [the perfect fit]."
Needless to say, her intuition was right about the union between Bowling Green and Roos -- the Falcons have gotten off to a 12-5 record.
And after recently upsetting then #14/15 Dayton three weeks ago, it’s safe to say that Rogers’ life and game are in harmony for the first time since high school.
“It’s kind of indescribable,” said a beaming Rogers.
With the “bumps” behind her, Rogers now has finally found the things that she’s always coveted: tranquility, joy and most importantly peace of mind.