BERKELEY — There were moments Tierra Rogers questioned whether she would stay in college, let alone do enough to earn her degree.
The former California basketball player, who never played a single minute because of a rare heart condition that could have killed her, has that diploma in hand at last — four years after a frightening collapse that derailed her college career before it began.
The highly touted guard stopped breathing outside the Cal training room in September 2009. While she never played for the Golden Bears, ranked No. 10 this week, Rogers attended practice whenever possible and played a part in Cal's first ever trip to the Final Four last season.
Rogers battled depression and sought counseling, but stayed in school to earn her bachelor's degree in African American Studies. She posted a photo of her diploma on her Twitter account with the message that "Without God, Support & Family this wouldn't have been possible."
She credited not only her coaches but athletic director Sandy Barbour and the Cal support staff.
"Our women's basketball staff and the entire Cal community are so proud of Tierra," coach Lindsay Gottlieb said Tuesday. "She is a model of courage and perseverance. Seeing her with her diploma from Berkeley in hand is just as gratifying as cutting down the nets and going to the Final Four."
Rogers graduated despite a learning disability that makes numbers and reading comprehension that much more challenging. A tutor helped her along the way — not to mention former Cal coach Joanne Boyle, who was there for every step at the beginning before departing to take the Virginia job.
"I spoke to her last week. So proud of her," Boyle said in a text message. "I'm hoping for her to come visit me sometime soon."
Rogers' career was cut short as she was still grieving 20 months after her father was murdered during one of her high school games in San Francisco.
On Sept. 21, 2009, Rogers collapsed at Haas Pavilion after she had trouble breathing during a workout. She was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where she spent a week for testing and observation. Once doctors determined she had a cardiac condition, she was transferred to UC San Francisco Medical Center. There, doctors discovered her condition — Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia — and implanted a defibrillator.
Most with her rare heart condition never know, until it's too late, because it is often fatal.
Last year, Rogers even began taking part in a clinical trial at UC San Francisco in an effort to help others with her condition.
A high school All-American at San Francisco's Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep, her dad was shot to death at halftime of a game while across the street from her home gym on Jan. 12, 2008. She considered giving up basketball after that.
As it turned out, that decision wasn't hers to make. She had no choice.
Rogers has appreciated everybody who stayed involved to keep her going through the tough times.