There was no WNBA All-Star game in 2016 due to the break for the Summer Olympic games, but if there had been one, it’s a fairly safe assumption that New York Liberty sharp-shooter Sugar Rodgers would have been honored with her first-ever selection.
As much as the 2016 Liberty season was about Tina Charles’ dominance, the other big bold headline had to do with Rodgers making an incredible leap during her 4th WNBA season. In 2015, Rodgers enjoyed what at the time seemed like a breakout year, averaging 8.1 points per game with 41 makes from beyond the arc. But, that paled in comparison to her 14.5 ppg scoring average last year, and of course the 86 made 3-pointers, which not only set a new Liberty single-season record, but was one of the most prolific 3-point shooting seasons in league history.
The only reason Rodgers failed to lead the league in threes is because Diana Taurasi edged her out with 89 makes from downtown, only the third-highest total ever in the WNBA.
Her season was only partially about long-range shooting. Early in her career, Rodgers was known as a volume 3-point threat, a player with tremendous range, but she took a lot of shots. She fired a lot of threes last year too, but she made 41.3 percent of them, the 5th-best percentage in the league.
Rodgers also showed off all the other strengths of her game. She finished ranked in the top-40 in the WNBA in scoring, assists, steals, blocks, and minutes. Yes, even blocks; Rodger swatted 0.5 shots per contest. She also had a career-high 35 steals, and she used her keen ball handling and creativity in the paint to get to the line 95 times, also not surprisingly, a new career high.
Understandably this led to Rodgers getting Most Improved Player buzz, a vote that saw her finish in 3rd place in a crowded field. She was even one of the few selected to train with the USA Basketball Select Team in July, joining the Olympic team in Los Angeles for practices and an exhibition.
Rodgers has said she still doesn’t think she’s come close to reaching her full potential. It’s exciting to speculate what she may have in store for 2017, and some of those Taurasi 3-point marks may be within reach.
May 15 vs. Dallas
Just two games into the season Rodgers shows off what she has in store with 24 points and 6 3-pointers in the Liberty home opener at The Garden
June 29 @ Minnesota
Rodgers finishes with the 1st 30-point game of her career and nails 7 3-pointers in a come-from-behind win at Minnesota
July 8 @ Chicago
In leading the Liberty to yet another road win, Rodgers scores 21 points with 4 rebounds and 4 steals against the Chicago Sky
PRETTY SWEET RECORD
Nailing two more 3-pointers against Dallas on Sept. 11, Sugar Rodgers added to her franchise single-season record with 86 3-pointers, surpassing Shameka Christon’s 2011 campaign of 78 makes from downtown. Rodgers finished 2nd in the WNBA in 3-pointers this season, trailing only Diana Taurasi who sunk 89, the 3rd most for a single-season in league history.
Sugar Rodgers saw her scoring average nearly double from 2015 to 2016, making her a prime candidate for the WNBA’s Most Improved Player, a vote where she finished 3rd. Rodgers averaged a career-best 8.1 ppg last season, showing increased production off the bench and in times as a starter, but she took her game to a whole different level this year. Her 14.5 ppg ranked 14th in the league and she was 2nd in the WNBA with 86 3-pointers. Rodgers shot the long-ball at a very high percentage, ranking 5th in the league at .413 from distance. She logged 30.5 minutes per contest, 15th overall, and cracked the top-40 in assists, steals, and blocks.
RODGERS AND STOKES JOIN USA BASKETBALL SELECT TEAM
Liberty center Kiah Stokes and guard Sugar Rodgers were both selected to the 11-member USA Basketball Women’s Select Team in July. They received the opportunity to travel to Los Angeles to train with the U.S. Olympic team in preparation for an exhibition between the two squads at USC’s Galen Center on July 24. After a couple of days of training under the guidance of the U.S. National Team Coaching Staff, Rodgers and Stokes helped the Select Team battle the National Team in a hard fought 88-84 loss. Stokes had two points and four rebounds for the Select squad and Rodgers finished with three points and two boards.
Liberty guard Sugar Rodgers went on a hot streak from June 26 through July 1, topping 20 points in three-straight games for the first time in her career. Including a career-best 30 points in the win at Minnesota on June 29, Rodgers averaged 25.0 ppg over those three contests, having knocked down 14 3-pointers during that span, an average of 4.7 triples per game. Her seven 3-pointers in the win over the Lynx tied the Liberty single-game record and was one shy of matching the WNBA single-game record.