As a freshman last year at Indiana University, Mackenzie Holmes set a school record by hitting 63.4 percent of her shots for the women’s basketball team.
She apparently wants to break that record again.
Holmes, the former Gorham High star, made all 13 of her shot attempts in Indiana’s season-opening 100-51 victory over Eastern Kentucky on Nov. 25. The 6-foot-3 forward finished with a career-high 26 points in her third career start. She also had eight rebounds, seven blocked shots and two steals.
It was a command performance that may just be a preview of what’s to come.
Holmes spent the offseason working on her skills and remaking her body – she’s lost about 20 pounds since the start of her freshman year – to the point where she can now take a larger role for the 13th-ranked Hoosiers.
Indiana Coach Teri Moren is certainly high on Holmes, especially her work ethic.
“Mac has always been about the extra and that’s one of the things that we appreciate about her,” she said. “She’s going to continue to get better and you’re going to see her game grow into being one of the best, if not the best, low block post players in the Big Ten.”
Holmes takes such accolades in stride. She’s just happy to be playing, especially during a coronavirus pandemic that has made everything more challenging.
“We know every day together as team, especially in these times, is a great day” she said in a Zoom conference with reporters on Wednesday. “When we played last Wednesday, we all had a lot of fun being on the court together.”
Holmes has always had talent – she was the Maine Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior at Gorham and last year was named to the Big Ten all-freshman team after averaging 10.8 points and 5.2 rebounds – and a strong work ethic. And while at home in Maine during the spring, she decided to change her body.
“I feel like I had so much time in quarantine to think about everything and reflect over the past year and I decided it was something I needed to do for myself,” she said. “It wasn’t something that was super difficult … I watched what I was eating, put the right things in my body, and was working out. I gradually just lost weight.”
When she returned to Bloomington, Indiana, to resume classes and practices, Holmes contacted the team’s strength coach (Kevin Konopasek) and nutritionist (Isaac Hicks) and set up a plan to continue becoming more fit. Konapasek gave her exercises designed to help her basketball skills; Hicks set up a meal plan.
Holmes no longer eats processed foods and limits her intake of pasta and red meat. She eats plenty of vegetables, especially cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and squash. “I feel more energized because of the diet changes I’ve made, for sure,” she said.
And it shows. She played 21.1 minutes in the season opener, a little over two minutes more than she averaged last year.
“She has better stamina and can stay on the floor a little longer,” said Moren. “You got to see that against Eastern Kentucky. In the past, she was in for three, four minutes and we had to get her out to give her a blow. Against Eastern Kentucky, she played a lot of minutes and in long stretches.”
And Holmes said, it has helped her overall game. “From the standpoint of jumping and quickness, I feel quicker and I’m getting up higher when I’m shooting, making post moves and rebounding as well,” she said. “I feel like I’m getting up higher.”
Her coaches back in Maine follow her closely and are not surprised at Holmes’ success.
“I think the big difference is, the things they have the opportunity to really enforce in college, like weight lifting and nutrition, those things might get touched on in high school but not much,” said Laughn Berthiaume, her coach at Gorham. “Those are the things she’s really embraced and taken to the next level.”
Don Briggs, her coach with the Maine Firecrackers club team, said Holmes brings a skill set other post players lack. She is quick and is capable of stepping outside to hit the 3-point shot, something she didn’t need to do against Eastern Kentucky.
“She plays a lot bigger than that her size,” he said. “And skill-wise she’s so much further ahead of anyone she’s playing against. People against her may have the size on her. But skill-wise you’d be hard-pressed to find a better post player with the skill set that she has.”
Against Eastern Kentucky, Holmes didn’t even display her entire skill set. All 13 of her baskets came on inside shots, many with her left hand. Holmes is right-handed but has always been adept at shooting with her left hand.
“I’ve never seen post player quite like Mac, that can score through traffic, score with either hand and have such a soft touch,” said Moren. “She grew her game throughout the pandemic. … As she grows her game, she grows our offense. She’s going to be a kid who’s going to be incredibly difficult to stop.”