Former NBA player gives back to McDougald Terrace, where he grew up

Dec. 21, 2013 @ 05:32 PM

Rodney Rogers grew up in 3A on Sima Avenue in McDougald Terrace, Durham’s largest public housing complex. He went on to Wake Forest University and was a first-round draft pick for the Denver Nuggets in 1993, launching a career in the NBA. He played 12 seasons before returning to North Carolina. He lives in Timberlake now, and came to visit his old neighborhood Saturday to give back, he said.
“I grew up less fortunate but was lucky enough to make it out,” Rogers said Saturday afternoon at the McDougald park, where he led a toy giveaway to neighborhood kids. Hip-hop music was pumped through speakers and children played on the playground, adults chatting nearby. Saturday was all about fun, Rogers said, and to give kids a chance to see him and give them hope.
He was there last month, too, giving out food for Thanksgiving. Friend Brian Allen, who grew up with Rogers in McDougald Terrace, said that even when Rogers was in the NBA, whenever he came back through town, he stopped at their old neighborhood. There are 360 apartments in McDougald, which was built in 1953 a block behind N.C. Central University on Lawson Street. Rogers retired from basketball in 2005, was injured in a dirt bike accident in 2008 and is paralyzed. He uses a motorized wheelchair. He was wearing a sweatshirt from one of his former teams, the Boston Celtics, at the park.
Rogers said he tells kids living in McDougald Terrace to stay positive, get good grades in school and that their destiny is their own.
“It doesn’t matter where you grew up, where you came from,” he said. “Kids always want to talk about basketball. I tell them first things first, get good grades in the classroom. Play a sport, but also get an education. Try to be a role model.”
Laticia Nicole of Professional Divas Inc., of Durham, was part of Rogers’ event, too, and emphasized the importance of being a positive role model for children.
“We made it, and they can too, with hard work and perseverance,” Nicole said.
Others that grew up in Durham with Rogers also came to help at the event, including Sean Bethea, who went to Hillside High School, as did Rogers. There was a little good natured rivalry talk between Hillside and the old Durham High School alumni, and Hillside’s current rival, Southern High School, was represented too, with running back Toney Bass, who said Rogers is like an uncle to him.
“I wanted him to see where I grew up and not take things for granted,” Rogers said.
Children and parents crowded around the picnic shelter as the toy distribution began. Shequana Robinson waited with daughter Viola, 1, who had just received a turtle toy, and daughter Selena, 3, who was already playing with the hair of her new baby doll. Aleeyah, 7, also received a doll as the family waited on Zion, 5, to come with his new toy. Robinson said she thought it was a good event and already smelled the hot dogs cooking, also part of the day’s activities. After toys had all been distributed, organizers asked kids to go get their school progress reports so they could be entered in a drawing for a bike. Other kids tossed the football around or swung on the swings on an unusually warm afternoon that happened to be the first day of winter.