Isaiah Rogers played for the UMBC men’s basketball team from 2017-2019 after previously serving as a team manager. During his two seasons on the team, he played in 10 games — one of which was the Retrievers’ game against Kansas State in the Round of 32 during the 2018 NCAA Tournament. He scored UMBC’s final two points of that contest. He watched from the bench two days earlier as the Retrievers scored the first-ever 16-over-1 upset in NCAA Tournament history.
Rogers, who majored in biological studies at UMBC, is now working as a medical assistant for Padder Health in Maryland. He joined Glenn Clark Radio May 15 to discuss being in the medical field amid the pandemic, how college basketball prepared him for it and more. This has been edited for clarity and content.
PressBox: You have gone away from basketball and you’re in a completely different world. For people that don’t know, can you tell everybody a little bit about what you’re doing these days?
Isaiah Rogers: I am working as a medical assistant at a private practice in Maryland right now. Right now, we’re focusing on in the practice keeping our patients out of the hospital as much as we can. We’re calling up, checking up on them, scheduling these telemedical visits and trying to cater to any acute needs of our patients that we have currently. … Our practice offers [coronavirus] testing to our patients, and we’re a pretty decent-sized practice. We have five different locations in the state of Maryland, so we have a pretty large clientele. In any one given day, we could do about six testings, which unfortunately I’m in charge of handling throughout the course of the day.
PB: Did you always know that the medical field was the direction that you were headed in?
IR: Yeah. At that point in my life, I had recently completed an internship at the NIH, actually. I still had a passion for basketball, still loved the sport, but my mentor at that particular time said, “You know what? UMBC, they have a great research program and they have a basketball team that I think you can actually make the squad.” At that time, that was right before Coach Ryan had gotten there. It was kind of just one of those things where it kind of just fell into place, but medicine was definitely on my mind.
PB: What’s your goal?
IR: My goal and what I’m working toward currently is getting accepted into medical school and one day being a practicing physician on my own.
PB: How much has the pandemic either made you nervous or apprehensive about what it is that you do? Or has it strengthened your belief in why it is that you’re doing what it is that you’re doing and working toward your ultimate goal?
IR: That’s a great question, actually. It’s a battle — an internal, I would say, battle that I face every day. But I feel like I win because, for example, [on May 14], we have a lady who comes in. She’s complaining, concerned because her son tested positive for it and she has three other kids and she’s calling me and talking about, “I need to come in and get tested.” On one side, I feel that she should probably go to a testing site and not necessarily come into the office, but these are people. This is your aunt, your mom, your cousin, your sister, your brothers, your neighbors that need help. So when I hear [that] I’m like, “You know what? This is bigger than me.” I’ve got to put those concerns and those fears to the side and just protect myself and try to do what I can to help these people get answers.
PB: Former Towson men’s lacrosse player Tyler Konen said the pandemic is a reminder of why he chose to do this — “to be there to help in these moments.” Do you feel that feeling when you’re dealing with something you just described?
IR: Yes, absolutely. I recognize, too, that this isn’t a field for everyone. I’m so glad that I’ve been given this opportunity to help. So many people, at least in my life and the patients that I’ve come across, have been so grateful and so thankful that I’ve been able to assist them in the little ways that I have. Every day has just given me more affirmation as to why I want to do this.
PB: Can you compare at all the nerves of being an athlete and a competitor, standing there in the second round of the NCAA Tournament with all of those eyeballs on you and millions of people watching to what you’re experience right now, knowing that there are potentially lives at stake as you’re trying to help in these situations?
IR: You know what, I talk to my mom about this quite often. I thank God every day that I had the opportunity to play a sport and to participate at such a high level, because every day I’m faced with the same jitters I get before every game. I’m nervous, I’m shaking, but you know what? I have that comfort level of knowing that I’ve been here before. I’ve had thousands of people watching me make a layup, and now even though I don’t necessarily have thousands of people watching me make layups and stuff like that, I have family members questioning me and watching everything that I do and being involved with the treatment as far as their families and themselves are concerned. It’s just as nerve-wracking, but it’s a comfort level knowing that I played a sport was so competitive and now it doesn’t feel quite as scary. It doesn’t feel like it’s a pressurized situation for me.
PB: A lot of people are going to look at this and say, “Hey, the odds suggest I’m probably not going to ever deal with this. I’ll probably never get COVID-19 because the odds say it’s still a smallish percentage of people that have gotten it and an even smaller percentage that have died from it.” But you know a thing or two about the odds not always telling the story, and sometimes completely unexpected things occur. What do you say to someone who still doesn’t think this is real and thinks that this is all wildly blown out of proportion?
IR: I would say that just because there is light at the tunnel, just because this isn’t touching you doesn’t mean this isn’t impacting a very large portion of our country. To see the anxiety and the fear that this thing has caused due to it affecting so many people just in the state of Maryland, I would advise you to – I beg of you , actually – please continue to practice social distancing, wearing your mask in public, washing your hands, because this thing can continue and persist if we don’t continue to abide by some of the guidelines of the CDC.
PB: You’re clearly someone who loves basketball. We all desperately want sports back. We are desperate for it. Can we have sports back right now? Is it safe for us to have sports back?
IR: In my opinion – and I’m just a medical assistant … but in my opinion I do not feel it is safe for large groups of people to be in one setting at one time right now. No, that’s absolutely not OK. Maybe we can slowly transition into having people arenas, we do some sort of social distancing, set up some protocols to have people in the arena, but as of right now, sports and having live fans there, it’s a no for me.
To hear more from Rogers, including his thoughts about playing on the Cinderella UMBC team and what he learned from that squad, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Isaiah Rogers