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Women hoops stars blaze trails

Jaylyn AgnewThe never-say-die attitude that made Jaylyn Agnew the first Bluejay drafted by the WNBA was on full display July 29 in Las Vegas.

Down 30 points to the Las Vegas Aces and with just 1:56 left in the fourth quarter, Agnew took a long pass from Atlanta Dream teammate Alexis Jones and charged the basket where she prepared the shot that would have meant her first WNBA points. But Sugar Rodgers, a Georgetown University alumna and WNBA veteran, had other ideas and sent Agnew flying.

Cool as a veteran, the 2019 Creighton University graduate, wearing the number 5 shirt that has followed her through middle school, high school, college and now the professional game, stood at the free-throw line and swished both shots.

“We were losing, but I was so happy to be out there and able to contribute,” Agnew says of those first points. “I saw Alexis out the corner of my eye as I was running down the court and I didn't know if she was going to pass it or not, but then she did and I got fouled.

“I was super grateful to be able to get my first points.”

Four days later, Agnew sank two three pointers against the Indiana Fever and the “rookie” designation began its slow retreat in the rear-view mirror.

When the WNBA season ends, Agnew will head to Russia where she will play for CSKA Moscow, a leading Russian team that once signed Becky Hammon who now serves as assistant coach with the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs.

Brianna RollersonIf Agnew is still taking the measure of the professional game, Omaha native Brianna Rollerson, BSW’17, long ago put the tape measure away. About to start her fourth year of professional basketball in Germany, the 6-1 power forward plays with the Rheinland Lions and is well-versed in the demands of professional basketball.

The Lions, who currently play in the second league of the German basketball system, plan to earn promotion to the first league this year, and with an influx to the team of first-league players Rollerson says an undefeated season is a real possibility.

“We'll have the fastest team in the league, and hopefully we will win the cup tournament and move up next year to the first league,” she says.

Like Agnew, Rollerson says the physicality of the professional game is what struck her the most.

“I think the defense overseas is a bit tougher because the rules are a little different,” she says.“I remember in college you really couldn't touch a person. But overseas, defense can be pretty physical, so that was a big adjustment.”

And when you are an American, born and raised in the birthplace of basketball, European players pay special attention, Rollerson says.

“At Creighton I really never got double teamed very often,” she says. “But here I get double teamed and even triple teamed because obviously as an American you are supposed to show up and produce.”

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