Cal basketball star Tierra Rogers is making a difference off court 

click to enlarge Tierra Rogers can’t play for Cal because of a heart condition, but she remains part of the program. - AP FILE PHOTO
  • AP File Photo
  • Tierra Rogers can’t play for Cal because of a heart condition, but she remains part of the program.

Terrell “Terray” Rogers devoted himself to helping people in need. After a turbulent childhood, he co-founded Peacekeepers, a nonprofit crisis intervention group, so he could teach young people how to avoid the mistakes that he made while growing up.  

The five-year anniversary of Rogers’ murder outside of a high school basketball game at Sacred Heart Cathedral is fast approaching, but the spirit of his mission carries on. It lives within his daughter, Tierra Rogers.

Rogers coped with the loss of her father through basketball, and then the joy of playing the game was taken away, too, when she was diagnosed with a rare heart condition — arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia, a common source of a cardiac arrest in athletes. But as Rogers approaches her final semester at Cal, she is discovering that she inherited her father’s gift for mentorship and it might actually exceed her skills on the hardwood.

“Using my voice to help other people and inspire people is something I’d love to do,” Rogers said. “And it’s something my dad did. It’s something I never thought I’d do, but it just happened that way.”

Like most college seniors, Rogers, a former top recruit, is still deciding what to do with her future. She would like to travel, she might write a book, but she’s certain that she wants to remain in sports in some capacity, possibly as a coach.

The African-American studies major said coaching combines two passions: athletics and helping

“Sports have changed my life, so I definitely want to stay in it,” Rogers said. “It’s definitely a positive resource.”

Rogers received a scholarship to play basketball at Cal after a decorated high school career at Sacred Heart Cathedral. But she was forced to retire after a defibrillator was implanted into her heart in October 2009, weeks before she was scheduled to play her first college game. She stayed with the team as a student assistant and assumes the roles of coach, inspirational leader and confidant.

“Her role now is to give to others,” coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “As much as I know she’d be helping us on the court, she can’t step on the court and play. But she’s as valuable a Cal basketball [team member] as anyone we’ve ever had — and I mean that earnestly.”

Senior guard Eliza Pierre said Rogers is a disarming voice who provides insight and criticism without being harsh. She’s also the person many of them turn to when they’re dealing with issues off the court.

Last year, Pierre’s brother was murdered and Rogers guided her through the grieving process. In August, Rogers cut her summer vacation short to be with Pierre on the one-year anniversary of the

“Just to have someone just there,” Pierre said. “I was out here by myself. I’m from SoCal. I think she understood that.”   

The Bears (9-1) are off to their best start in 20 years and are ranked in the top 10 in the nation. Pierre said the team is driven to send Rogers off with a season to remember.

“We have someone who has been the top player, top recruit, but she cannot play,” she said. “That has been our reality — we have this chance, let’s make the best of it. If we’re not doing for ourselves, let’s do it for Tierra.”

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Paul Gackle

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