Despite the size sevens she wore, whoever replaced longtime assistant coach Annette Rocheleau on Robin Selvig’s Lady Griz staff was going to have some big shoes to fill after Rocheleau announced her retirement earlier this summer.
Butte native Sonya Rogers has never been one to back away from a challenge.
Rogers, who played for the Lady Griz from 2005-09, will take over as Selvig’s third assistant for 2013-14, and the former sharpshooter, who led the nation in 3-point shooting as a junior, has no illusion that she’ll make people forget about Rocheleau, who as a player and assistant coach was part of all but 13 of Selvig’s 798 career victories.
“Replacing someone who coached for 32 years is a big role to fill, so I’m not even thinking about it that way,” Rogers said. “I just want to come in and provide some new energy and see what we can do.”
The addition of Rogers is the first new face on Selvig’s staff in two decades. Shannon Schweyen is entering her 22nd year with Selvig, Trish Duce is beginning her 20th year. With Rocheleau still on board last season, Montana had the most experienced staff in Division I basketball.
“It’s different not having Annette, there is no question, but Sonya brings a lot to us,” Selvig said. “She was a really good player because of her work ethic and her love of the game of basketball, and she hasn’t lost that a bit.
“She’s excited about being a part of, and I think the kids are going to like her. It’s nice to be bringing her back inside the program.”
Rogers, who played her freshman and sophomore seasons at Butte High before transferring to Lewistown after the 2002-03 school year, was a spring signee in 2005 and started her first career game, a 71-70 win at Utah State. She would play 123 more in her career, never missing a game while winning 101 of them.
Her 1,320 points rank No. 11 on the Lady Griz career scoring list, and she helped Montana to back-to-back NCAA tournaments in 2008 and ’09, Rogers’ junior and senior seasons. The Lady Griz also made the WNIT in 2007 after winning 27 regular-season games.
Rogers, first-team All-Big Sky Conference as a senior and second-team as a sophomore, led the NCAA in 3-point field goal percentage in 2007-08 at 48.6 percent. After opening the season 0 for 4 from the arc in Montana’s season-opening loss at Boise State, Rogers shot 50 percent (72 for 144) the final 31 games.
“When Rob called me about joining his staff, I think I was just as excited as when he called to tell me I was being offered a scholarship,” Rogers said. “I think any former Lady Griz would probably back me up when I say that anyone would think it would be cool to be on Rob’s staff and be part of this.”
The opportunity for Rogers came about serendipitously. Katie Baker was originally going to fill the position on a part-time basis while taking post-graduate classes over the fall and spring semesters with a goal of getting into a physician assistant program.
But an opportunity to continue her playing career in Luxembourg arose, and it was one Baker could not turn down.
Rogers was already enrolled at Montana to begin graduate work in speech therapy this semester. In addition to her coaching duties, she’ll continue on her academic path and leave her future options open.
“I’m excited for this new beginning and being involved in a different aspect of this whole situation,” Rogers said. “As a player you don’t really see what the coaches are doing all the time because you’re focused on being a student-athlete. It’s definitely a change being a staff member and not an athlete.
“I’ve only done one individual workout so far, and it’s been fun to see the difference. We’ll really start digging in the next couple of weeks, and I know it’s going to be an awesome experience.”
Montana will open its season on Tuesday, Oct. 22, with its annual Maroon and Silver scrimmage. Exhibition games against MSU Billings and Montana-Western will follow on Oct. 28 and Nov. 7.
The Lady Griz host MSU Northern on Sunday, Nov. 10, in their regular-season opener.
— Montana Sports Information