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NEW YORK – Sugar Rodgers is all smiles these days.

New York Liberty coach Bill Lambier knows his 3-point specialist, who averages 10 points a game, is one reason the Liberty are in first place.  But life has not always been good for the Suffolk, Virginia product, who has faced more than her share of hardships.

“Our house was condemned, and we had to leave and  we were homeless.”

And it would get worse for the 13 year old.  who watched her mother perish before her eyes.  She died from lupus on July 14, 2005,  ten years ago today.

“I was a full time nurse for my mother. It was tough. I didn’t go to school all the time and had to take care of someone I loved, but life goes on.”

Her world was rocked again by her brother and sister,  while trying to support the family were caught up in the world of drugs.

“My sister and brother sold drugs as did most of my family,  but I stayed focused and didn’t follow that path, it’s a blessing I made it out of that situation.”

Motherless and homeless, she lived with her basketball coaches, friends and wherever she could. now 23 years old, she speaks very candidly about having to survive the crime ridden neighborhoods while trying to focus on basketball.

“While playing basketball, I’ve been in drive-by shootings.”

With guile and wit,  she survived the mean streets and received a scholarship to Georgetown University. All Big East for all four years, she became the all-time leading scorer for men and women with  nearly 2,600 points.

“Just being a woman and able to accomplish that was great, beating out guys like Allen Iverson and Patrick Ewings, made me feel good knowing I could do what guys can do.”

Now, her brother and sister are out of jail and the family is back together.  Sugar says when her WNBA career is over, she wants to go back to Suffolk, Virginia and give back to the community.

What is her message to aspiring young players?

“There is a way out and don’t  let anyone shoot down your dreams.”