Mikale Rogers: Leaving a Mark at IUPUI

Mikale Rogers graduated from Lawrence North High School, where she was an AP All-State selection her senior season. At IUPUI she has made a lasting impact on the women’s basketball program and has helped lead them to three 20-win seasons.

Basketball has always been a big part of Mikale Roger's life. Always important, but never life changing.

Until now that is. 

Rogers started playing youth basketball in the third grade, and after 13 years of often doubting if something more laid ahead, she will soon leave a legacy behind at IUPUI and once again start a new journey in her playing career.

The senior is second in scoring and the backbone of the Lady Jags’ defense heading into the Summit League tournament as IUPUI looks to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history.

Over the past four years Rogers has been an intricate part of IUPUI's success under coach Austin Parkinson, but it hasn't always been easy for the 6-foot-2-post player. 

In high school she played for three different coaches at Lawrence North and at times didn’t know if dreams past the IHSAA state tournament were realistic. Luckily, the combination of two coaches along with a strong support system has carved a path for the soon-to-be IUPUI legend.

“She was put into a tough situation,” Lawrence North coach Chris Giffen said. “It’s tough to not have any consistency.”

Giffen took over the Wildcat program before Roger’s senior season and immediately reached out.

“Knowing that Mikale was going to be my rock, I immediately sought her out and tried to form a rapport with her,” he said. “I was successful doing that and Mikale was open to it.”

It didn’t take long for Giffen to realize how special Rogers was.

“She was unbelievable,” he said. “Extremely coachable, did everything I asked her to do both from a player standpoint and leadership standpoint.”

Even before Giffen met Rogers, another coach had noticed her raw ability and potential.

Enter Austin Parkinson

“I had never seen a women’s AAU game in my life,” he said about the weekend he first noticed Rogers.

It was the second day of his first recruiting trip in Louisville and someone finally caught Parkinson’s eye.

“I remember seeing this baby faced 6-foot-2 girl that I compared to seeing a deer trying to cross a frozen pond and couldn’t stand up,” he said. “She could rebound, she had great energy and you could see that she had potential, but she just couldn’t stand up.”

It only took one glimpse of Rogers and Parkinson began the recruiting process.

“I was just trying to look for local kids and get a feel,” he said. “And there was just something about her, so I made a conscious effort to do everything I could to build a relationship and recruit that kid.”

The potential to play beyond high school was never in doubt for Rogers, but without coaches like Giffen and Parkinson and her family she may have never realized it herself.

“Freshman year of high school I didn’t know how big of a deal it meant as a freshman to be on varsity,” she said. “I eventually realized and thought to myself ‘this might mean something.”’

Rogers is one of the first in her family to go to college, and like a lot of collegiate athletes, basketball was her ticket.

“I didn’t want my mom to stress,” she said. “So my thing was to get to college so she doesn’t have to stress and I can make her even more proud that I went to high school and am about to graduate with a college degree.”

Along with her grandparents, Roger’s mom has been her No.1 fan for her entire life.

“She’s been really the mother and the father for me,” Rogers said. “So looking up at her in the stands is inspiring. She’s proud of me and she’s happy that I’m doing this and I’m so glad to be able to make her proud.”

Rogers ultimately committed to IUPUI, stating that she felt wanted by the Jags’ program.

“They were looking at me and really wanted me to come there,” she said. “They made me feel like I was going to have another family outside of my own family.”

She was a Division I commit, but the roadblocks to a successful basketball career continued to pop up.

Roger’s was named to the AP All-State team following her senior season at Lawrence North, but was left off one noticeable award list.

“She wasn’t an Indiana All-Star, but she was definitely deserving,” Giffen said. “She hasn’t let that deter her from chasing after her dreams.”

Parkinson noted that she didn’t get the same notoriety as other players in her class and on her high school AAU team, but he had no doubt the impact she was going to have at IUPUI.

“I told her that if you come to IUPUI you will have equally as a memorable career and maybe have a larger impact on IUPUI and our community than those players who were McDonald’s All-Americans,” he said.

Look no further than the Jags’ success in the past four seasons as a testament to Roger’s lasting impact on the program.

During her freshman season she played 14 minutes per game and averaged over six points a contest on a team that set a school record for wins.

After another successful season in her sophomore campaign, she earned sixth women of the year in the Summit League and began to take her game to the next level.

Parkinson uses an example during her junior season to show her growth as a player.

“We do a certain 3-point drill everyday in practice and she would always participate until one day her junior year she asked if she could just work on her post moves,” he said. “I got down on both knees and pretended to pray to the heavens and was like I am glad that you finally realized that.”

Her junior season, Rogers earned first-team all conference honors and for the first time the thought of a professional career became a reality.

“Last year I knew I had gotten better and realized that I can do well playing overseas and my mom and uncles started telling me I can do it,” she said. “Coach P started sending me stuff for the combine and I am really excited because I think I have a good chance.”

A professional career for Rogers is only a matter of time in Parkinson’s eyes.

“She will play professionally, there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “And that’s a long way from the beginning. When I first started recruiting her she was pretty immature and now she’s a leader of our basketball team who looks out for the younger kids.”

Parkinson believes two distinct abilities set Rogers apart from other college players.

“You don’t see a lot of back to the basket post players in college basketball,” he said. “But one on one on the blocks you can’t guard her.”

He also believes her defensive ability has played a significant role in IUPUI’s recent success.

“I think she’s the best defensive player in the league by a landslide,” Parkinson said.

Throughout her entire career, Rogers’ has played with a lot of emotion, both good and bad, but her teammates have always been there to pick her up.

“When they see me down, they’re like get it together Mikale, right now, we need you,” she said. “And to know that they need me and that I need them as well more than anything is amazing.”

As a senior Rogers earned second-team all conference and has helped IUPUI to a 22-7 record this far, including a comeback victory over Purdue. Another moment when Parkinson realized Roger’s had reached another level as a player.

“We go into a Big Ten arena and play against players who were probably more highly-recruited than her and they couldn’t guard her,” he said. “I think that speaks volumes about the level of player she has become.”

Rogers hopes she has made a positive impact on IUPUI, while Parkinson knows she already has.

“There were these kids who got the accolades and she didn’t,” he said. “And then she came here and I just think that when you look at it at the end of her four years, she stayed with one school and will have a lasting impact that will be remembered here and a change on the future of this basketball team.”

Both her blood relatives and basketball family have blessed Rogers with outpouring support, but she hopes she is returning the favor with a new higher standard.

“I know I have a big support system,” she said. “But I even want to be a bigger support system to my teammates and to my family. It’s something important to me.”

Basketball has already taken Rogers to heights she once never imagined she could reach, but her ongoing bond with her high school coach shows proof she will always remember how she got there.

“There’s just nobody more deserving of their success than Mikale,” Giffen said. “She’s very compassionate, always attentive to my family and showed a big heart to my students. She’s very humble and will never forget about her background.”

It wasn’t always a clear path, but the sport of basketball gave Roger’s something to hope for and now what most people only dream about, she is living as a reality.

“I couldn’t have done it without faith,” she said. “I didn’t think I was going to make it this far, and I needed faith to be able to continue what I am doing now.”