Credit: Tommy Rothman

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Sophomore forward Michelle Nwokedi gives out the call the moment she realizes what she’s being interviewed about, and the members of Penn women’s basketball begin to swarm. Some are turned away (“You don’t have Heelys!”), others miss out while completing interviews about the sport they play (“We’re not waiting for Sydney”).

Over the past few weeks, members of the Ivy League-leading Quakers have been seen rolling around on “Heelys” after practices. How did it come about?

“One day ... who was it?” Nwokedi pauses.

“You,” sophomore guard Anna Ross reminds her.

“OK. Well like they all had scooters, and I was like, ‘Ugh, I really wanna be included,’ so I was like, ‘Dude, remember those shoes, I forgot what they’re called, but they had the wheels.’ And one of them was like, ‘They’re Heelys,’ and I was like, ‘Let’s get some! Like why not, let’s just go get some Heelys.’ So we got Heelys.”

The revived trend came as a surprise to Penn coach Mike McLaughlin. “I was shocked, I didn’t know they even made them anymore,” he said. “I must be so old school. I remember my kids had them 12 or 14 years earlier.”

The first time the girls received and wore the Heelys was particularly memorable.

“When we first got the email that they were in, me and Ashley [Russell] ran back to our dorms and got them, and we brought them and practiced in the gym,” Nwokedi recalls.

“They were done with [basketball] practice, and I was still in the Palestra talking to whoever was in there,” McLaughlin said. “And all of a sudden five of them came out there wearing them. I was taken aback.”

Nwokedi claims the historic Palestra floor is the best surface to roll on. “It’s really hard to practice on concrete,” she said.

But basketball practice isn’t the only time to bring out the Heelys.

“One day, we were all watching ‘The Bachelor,’ and between commercials we’d go outside and start practicing [riding] Heelys,” Nwokedi said.

It quickly became apparent that not all Heely riders are created equal.

“Sydney [Stipanovich] needs the most practice,” Ross said.

“Kristen [Daley] and I were teaching these two,” Russell said, pointing to Ross and Nwokedi. “We’re pros.”

“It must be a Boston thing,” Nwokedi explained.

According to the Heely Gang, which also includes junior guard Kasey Chambers, members of the team who already own scooters are reluctant to join the crew.

McLaughlin had gone on the record saying he would buy a set of Heelys if the team went undefeated in conference play, but a recent loss to Cornell killed that dream. Still, Penn will have a shot to win the league title against Princeton next week, and McLaughlin has decided to be flexible to help up the ante for what will likely be a winner-take-all matchup.

“If we win, I’ll be Heely-ing all over. Up and down 33rd Street, up Walnut, to Baby Blues, to Houston, all over,” McLaughlin said.

And whether he’ll admit it or not, McLaughlin is already feeling the Heely spirit. As he shouted on his way out of the Palestra after one practice:

“Heelys are back!”