Aug. 6, 2009
For two players on the Husky women's basketball team, the summer of 2009 provided a unique opportunity to revisit a meaningful part of their childhoods. Rising sophomores Mackenzie Argens and Kristi Kingma gave back to the program that helped shape their futures by teaching Coach J Hoops Camp June 29-July 2.
Argens (Seattle, Wash.) and Kingma (Mill Creek, Wash.) both grew up avid Husky fans. Both recall attending numerous Washington athletic events as children and into adolescence. Both dreamed of making it to the University of Washington as athletes, but neither believed it was possible. Each attended camp as elementary-aged schoolchildren.
"My first year, I was really young," remembered Argens. "I can't remember everything, but I do remember it being really cool seeing all the players and being around all the players. I looked up to them. They were so much taller than me, and they were so much better, obviously. I thought it was pretty cool, being there."
"I started when I was in second grade and I stopped going when I was in middle school," recalled Kingma. "My favorite part was having the chance to meet the players. I would come to all the games and watch them. I would study the media guides. I knew everything about every player. They were my heroes. The coolest thing to me was just seeing them interact with us, because they were so famous. They were so the dream, they were everything I wanted to be, but never thought I could."
As Argens and Kingma honed their skills in camp, in club play and on their high school teams, each found themselves being recruited by the UW. For both women, being recruited by Washington was a dream come true.
"I always wanted to be a Husky," said Argens. "Not until high school did I start to think I could actually play for the Huskies. I think about that to this day. It's crazy how everything worked out and I get to stay here in front of my home crowd with my family and friends. It is a dream."
"Throughout the whole recruiting process, I just had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to be a Husky," Kingma agreed. "You always look other places, but you always dream that one day you'll wake up and have the Purple and Gold on."
"I think that when you grow up idolizing a school so much, it doesn't ever really seem real when you play here," Kingma added. "Even now, I know Mackenzie and I will be ready to run out the tunnel to the game and you just get chills. I know we do it every day, but I can't believe I'm here."
After struggling through a challenging 2008-09 freshman season, Argens and Kingma settled into workouts and schoolwork through the offseason. Then at the end of June, the pair found themselves with the opportunity to help teach summer camp. Nearly all members of the squad teach camp, helping third-seventh grade girls develop the fundamentals of basketball. For Argens and Kingma, both former campers themselves, the experience was extra special.
Both Kingma and Argens discovered what it was like to be on the other side of the adoration they once heaped on the likes of assistant coach Loree Payne and Husky legends Giuliana and Gioconda Mendiola.
"I completely understand where they're all coming from," said Kingma. "It was probably the highlight of my summer, working that camp. You see the little girls and how their eyes looks at you and how they want to do everything like you. They want to talk like you and walk like you. They just want you to see them. You know exactly how special you are to them. It hits home to me that for these kids, you seriously are their everything. This little girl made me a friendship bracelet and I haven't taken it off since. It's priceless."
"You don't how much the smallest thing that you say to them matters," added Argens. "They just want you to come out there and be around them. They want to ask you questions and kind of figure out who you are, like we used to do. They want our autographs on the back of their shirts or on their basketballs. It puts me back to when I was little and puts me in their position. I was them, running around, trying to steal the ball from the players and it's just amazing that I'm on the other end of that now."
Argens and Kingma relish the responsibility of being role models to their campers, not only helping them with basketball skills, but trying to be positive forces in the girls' lives.
"I try to be as good a role model as I can be. Like Coach J says, everyone's watching you all the time," said Argens. You always want to be aware of stuff, especially at these camps. You want to show a good example. I love having little girls look up to me. I think it's really cool that you can help change someone's life and help put them in a good direction. It's fun, being looked up to."