Bill Resler holds the door open as two of his players wheel a cart filled with basketballs into the storage room. They struggle to fit it into the room that's haphazardly crammed with an assortment of gym equipment.
"Jeez," Resler said with a wink, "how many high school seniors does it take to get the balls put away?"
Mackenzie Argens emerges with a wide grin and a playful shove for Coach Resler. So concludes girls' basketball practice at Roosevelt High School, 1410 N.E. 66th St.
DESTINED FOR HUSKYVILLE
Argens, a fresh-faced senior with an easy laugh, gets along with her coaches - and her teammates - like they could be family. And in a way they are, but not for much longer. Argens recently signed a National Letter of Intent to continue her basketball career at the University of Washington next season, where she'll get a full-ride scholarship.
It shouldn't come as any surprise that 6-foot, 3-inch Argens will play for a Division 1 school. She's played on the Roughriders varsity team all four years of high school, was first-team All-King County her junior year and has been the Roughriders' leading scorer and rebounder since her sophomore year.
On Dec. 5, she also learned that her nomination was accepted for the McDonald's All-American team.
It's also not surprising that of all the Pac-10 schools, the Laurelhurst resident chose Washington, where both of her parents are alumni.
"It's basically in my back yard," Argens said. "I've grown up being a Husky."
Although it's been assumed that Argens would head to Montlake after high school since she verbally committed a little more than a year ago, it wasn't official until early November.
"Nov. 8. At 2:45 p.m.," she recalled matter-of-factly.
Both Argens and Resler agree it was an emotional event. Not only was the whole Roughrider team there to support her, but her family, friends and school faculty also rallied around her as she finalized her decision.
"I cried the whole time," Argens said with a laugh. "I just always get emotional."
Playing for the Huskies is going to be different than any other team Argens has ever played on. For one, there's her size.
"At 6-foot-3, I'm going to be one of the smaller girls!" she exclaimed.
She's right: Out of the six women who have signed letters of intent to play with the Huskies, four are more than 6 feet tall; two are 6 feet, 5 inches tall.
Resler insists Argens is a different kind of tall, however, because "she can run like the wind.
"She took a conditioning class, and she can run forever," Resler said. "There is no big person in the league that can run with her."
Resler also has high praise for Argens' improved defensive skills. "Her confidence has really improved," he said. "She's much more ferocious."
One of Resler's main concerns about Argens is a problem that he said will probably never be solved.
"She's too nice. Once she scores a whole bunch of points, she stops shooting so others can catch up," he joked.
Not only is she nice, she's incredibly gracious: Unlike many teenagers, she's quick to sidestep the glory she's earned and credit those around her.
"I owe so much to my team, my coaches, my family, everyone," she said.
Assistant coach Bryan Willison sets the record straight: "The reason she is where she is, is because she works so hard."
It's been an exciting, four-year journey for Argens and the Roughrider team. The journey began with a state championship, documented by filmmaker Ward Serrill in the critically acclaimed "The Heart of the Game," which was released in theaters last summer and comes out on DVD in February.
Since then, it's been a lot of bonding, a lot of teamwork and, most of all, a lot of fun, which is what Argens said she'll miss most.
"All of the coaches have a sick sense of humor," Resler said, with an affirmative nod from Willison.
For example, the team once showed up late for a game and wanted to make an intimidating entrance, so they walked into the gym wearing their sweatshirt hoods, playing DMX's "Rough Riders Anthem."
"Sometimes Roosevelt has this reputation of being a real tough, inner-city school, so we just took advantage of that," Resler said.
Bill Resler also encourages fun by buying the team smoothies for making half-court shots, and he used to bring hot chocolate to practices at Lincoln High School, where it was so cold they could almost see their breath in the gym. (Roosevelt was moved to Lincoln for the two-year interim while Roosevelt was remodeled.)
"The team has a lot of heart," Argens said, "and heart brings out the fun."
'ALWAYS A ROUGHRIDER'
Argens has been preparing for her next stage by attending Husky games whenever she can and keeping in contact with Washington's head coach, June Daughtry.
Argens has also already been sized for her jersey: she chose her lucky high school number, 33, which was also her brother's number in high school.
There's a lot for Argens to look forward to, but for now she's concentrating on her senior year of high school and her final season as a Roughrider.
Some of her goals for this season are "playing with the team, having fun and accomplishing team goals, like making it to state," she said. "Oh, yeah, and just killing the other teams."
One thing's for certain: No matter what she does, she'll never forget these last four years and this team, which is, she said, out of all the teams she's played for, her favorite: "I'll always be a Roughrider."