Argens On The Road To Recovery

July 16, 2008

by Benton Strong

One step to the left and a little contact is all it took. When her teammate's knee hit the inside of her knee, Mackenzie Argens' freshman season was history.

The 6-foot-3 forward from Roosevelt High School had just become the newest member of the torn ACL club.

'She hit my knee, I heard a pop and I went down,' Argens said of the devastating injury that occurred just four games into her first season at Washington.

The injury happened on Nov. 20, 2007, right after the team returned from the Waikiki Beach Marriott Classic and marked the most serious of Argens' career. A torn ACL often ends the careers of athletes and Argens wasn't exactly upbeat about the upcoming nine-month process.

'I've never had surgery before,' she said. 'And I've never had an injury where I had to sit out, so it was really hard for me. After it happened my parents saw my whole personality shift.'

What was worse was that the original diagnosis was a knee sprain and a two-week recovery period. When she had the MRI she assumed it could be no worse than a much-less serious MCL injury. That is until the doctor told her that her ACL was gone.

'I was shocked,' she said. 'I've never been in shock like that before - never not been able to say anything. I would be lost without basketball.'

So in December Argens went into surgery to repair the ligament and begin her return to the Washington team. For a former high school state champion (2004 4A title at Roosevelt) and someone who had never done anything worse than sprain an ankle, this would be a test of will.

'Motivation is the hardest part,' Argens insisted. 'That first month I just wasn't myself. Teammates stood by me and tried to cheer me up, but I've never had something kill me as much as my knee has killed me.'

When the team works out Argens goes as hard as she can until she can't anymore and the training staff finds different exercises for her to do. Getting her fitness level is still a daunting task and regaining her quickness, the strength of her game with her size, is a daily battle.

Even when things started to look up she had to deal with what was a rough season for the team, balancing her need to motivate herself for rehab with the burning desire to play in a game. The end of the bench in street clothes can be one of the loneliest places during a game.

'I don't think I've ever sat out before,' she said. 'It was good that I got to see sort of a coaches perspective and they kept me involved. And [Dominique Banks] made it fun as well.'

What also helped Argens was that she had already played in a game, giving her some college experience. In four games, all in November, she averaged 2.3 points and 2.8 rebounds.

'Playing in that first home game (an exhibition contest against Love & Basketball) was incredible, just the atmosphere,' she said. 'And having my parents around was so helpful. I've thought about what it would be like if they weren't here. They still came to every game.'

Now as August nears, Argens says that full strength will as well. Her doctors say she should be able to use the knee to its fullest extent in the middle of the month, meaning that the only hurdles to clear now are in her mind.

'The knee is stronger now that it was before,' Argens said. 'I was a little worried about pivoting and cutting, but I was lucky. I injured my knee through contact so I'm not as scared that it would just go out.'

And as her full recovery nears she sees those who have joined the infamous torn ACL club going through what she went through and hopes to provide that hope that she struggled to find.

'I remember doing the same stuff that he is doing,' she said of Washington men's basketball player Artem Wallace, who tore his ACL against Valparaiso. 'Hopefully that is a lift for him and anyone else. This is a really frustrating injury and it just takes hope to get through it.'

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