Basketball had been a big part of Tierra Rogers' life and relationship with her father. That relationship was tragically interrupted when Terrell "Terray" Rogers was shot to death January 12th outside the Sacred Heart Cathedral gymnasium in San Francisco during halftime of a game between Sacred Heart, his daughter's team, and Archbishop Mitty.
One of Tierra Rogers' initial reactions was declaring to family friends she wanted to abandon the basketball career that was so meaningful to her father. She has since realized continuing her career was something Terray Rogers would very much have wanted.
"He wanted the best for his kids," said Chris Stallworth, a family friend whose daughter DeNesha also is a highly-regarded Bay Area recruit. "He never graduated high school. He wanted (Tierra) in the best possible situation to go to college."
Guy Hudson, another family friend who also has trained Tierra Rogers, said, "We've had two or three conversations already. She's going to be stronger. She knows what her daddy wanted. She's knows she's special and she's going to be somebody."
Tierra Rogers spent time with her aunt the summer after the sixth grade. Her aunt was volunteering at one of the community service programs, so Rogers was in the gym almost every day. Hudson, who ran the gym, was surprised to discover the basketball-playing young girl was the daughter of his good friend.
"Terray didn't have an athletic bone in his body," Hudson joked.
She has a core support group of people she confides in, which includes her family. It also includes her basketball family with Sue Phillips, the head coach of Archbishop Mitty, and her trainer, Hudson.
"We spoke Saturday night after the game," Phillips said of her communication with Tierra. "And she and I spoke on the phone (Sunday), very briefly, just trying to reassure her that we're all here for her for anything she needs.
"Our conversation didn't even revolve around basketball. It was the grieving process and reassuring her (of) the support system she has in place. To know how loved her father was in the broader community and that his passing will not be in vain. It will spark cause, greater cause for action against violence. I firmly believe those lives that he touched will continue to generate a greater movement towards the cause."
Basketball seems small in comparison to the bigger picture of what's important in life, but those close to the family like Hudson know that Tierra understands the big things he wanted for his daughter.
Tierra was looking forward to this summer and playing for the DFW Elite club basketball team and hoping that would be the next step in elevating her game and reaching her college goals. Because of his commitment to the Rogers family, Hudson is vowing to make sure that still happens for Tierra and because it is something his childhood friend would have done for someone else in the same situation. So while basketball initially seemed inconsequential in the midst of this tragedy, it may also be the best way for Tierra to somehow connect with her late father. It may also help her realize her father's dream for her of going to college and making the most of her abilities.
The impact and grieving is widespread, as Terray Rogers touched so many people in the San Francisco and San Jose communities.
"It's extremely tragic. I still have not come to terms with it," Phillips said of this senseless violence. "It's resurfacing a lot of trying times for the team. It was a really somber practice (Monday). The girls are determined to keep the faith in the human race and have basketball help with the healing process because basketball does bring a lot of joy to kids."
For Tierra the hope is of course that the joy of basketball helps her heal as it did the Archbishop Mitty family when they lost one of their own. Danny McAllister was the junior varsity coach at Mitty as well as the assistant coach for the San Jose Cages club team that Tierra played on for years. On October 29, McAllister was killed in a work accident.
"Terray was very helpful to our family afterwards," said Mary McAllister, the widow of Danny and also the team organizer for the Cagers. "He was such a wonderful man. After my husband passed away he was very helpful to the Mitty community and helped set up a trust fund for my kids. Terray was very instrumental in that."
The Rogers family was very close to many in the Mitty community because of their involvement with the San Jose Cagers club basketball team headed by Coach Phillips and the late Coach McAllister.
Terray Rogers giving is well known throughout the San Francisco and San Jose communities. Rogers' son plays on a successful club football team that qualified to go to nationals in Florida last year. When he found out three kids couldn't afford to make the trip, he spearheaded the raising of $4,000 and the entire team was able to make the trip.
This past summer after talking with Stallworth about his daughter DeNesha and how going to the Nike Regional Skills Academy would be great for her development, he found out that the trip to Los Angeles was too expensive for the family right before the busy summer travel season. Rogers stepped up and paid for the trip himself so that Stallworth could have the same opportunity to shine his daughter had.
Rogers also fought violence in his community through Peacekeepers, a crisis intervention group, he helped found.
"I don't want to be in the public eye for this," Phillips said. "However, I do want to make sure his message of peace and love is stated clearly throughout this violent act."
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