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Mackenzie Holmes accepts leadership role at world-ranked Indiana

Indiana forward Mackenzie Holmes prevents the ball from going out of bounds during a Nov. 14 game in Tennessee. Wade Payne/Associated Press

Mackenzie Holmes remembers arriving at Indiana University, a high school basketball star in Maine looking to take a big step in his basketball career.

That was three years ago. For Holmes it is hard to understand.

“It just flew by,” said the standout player from Gorham High School. “This year really creeped me out. I can’t believe it’s my fourth year playing with IU. Honestly, it’s surreal to me.”

Although it’s her senior year, this one doesn’t have the makings of Holmes’ Indiana Swan song. Holmes led the Hoosiers to his 7-0 start, ranking him fifth in the AP Top 25 and Thursday’s No. 6 North Carolina State.

She plans to use the one-year extra entitlement the NCAA gave athletes because of the pandemic, and plans to return to the team next season.

Holmes has revealed that 50 players are on the preseason watchlist for the John R. Wooden Awards, which are given to the nation’s top players. “It’s really special for me to have the opportunity to play another year here.”

In the three years since his arrival, Holmes has become more comfortable in Indiana and accustomed to the demands of playing Big Ten basketball. The 6-foot-3 forward is averaging 20 points and 7.4 rebounds this season.

“I have two days to play, and then I look back and I’m on a plane crossing the Midwest to go somewhere else. It’s always go-go-go,” she said. I think you have that learning curve.”

But she’s got a different learning curve this season. Now as one of his two seniors on the team and one of his two graduate students, Holmes knew he had to become one of the team’s strongest voices. rice field.

“I knew I needed to show leadership and do more,” Holmes said. ) Grace Berger and I both knew we needed to step up.”

Indiana coach Terry Mollen said he saw Holmes showing more of his personality.

“She has grown and changed a lot since she was dropped off here in Bloomington,” Moren said. “She was timid, insecure, shy, it was all of that. I was able to see what the potential could be.

“Now she is one of our leaders. …She was no stranger here. I could not do it.

This progress has seen Holmes form a first-team All-Big Ten in his sophomore year, but was a second-team pick last year when he dealt with a knee injury that required surgery and caused him to miss eight games. coincided with the return of She scored her 26 points against Auburn and her 27 against Memphis and was named Monday’s Big Her Ten Player of the Week.

Indiana forward Mackenzie Holmes shoots Charlotte’s Jaycee Busick during a game in the NCAA Tournament in March. The Hoosiers have advanced to the Sweet 16 every past two seasons. Michael Conroy/Associated Press

“I’ve always prided myself on my efficiency. I try to get shots that have a high success rate for me,” Holmes said. “Before, if I missed a few shots, I would get agitated and be hard on myself. I’m working on these things every day, so (I’m) confident the next one will come in.”

She doesn’t miss often. In her final three games, Holmes was her 34-30 from the field.

“She has a very special talent because she has extraordinary footwork and extraordinary hands and is also a hard worker,” Mollen said. “She works every day. She wants to be the best in her position. (Assistant coach) Rhett (Vielsba) would do it, but he can’t.

As Holmes is playing at a high level, her teammates are following suit. After reaching Elite Eight in 2021 and Sweet Her Sixteen in 2022, the Hoosiers have shown themselves to be front-line contenders, with a 6-0 win over her UNC her team. We can further validate that concept.

“There is a golden opportunity before us,” said Holmes. “I think any time we’re not in a conference, we have the chance to play against a top 10 team or a team like North Carolina.

As for her future, taking an extra year puts off the question of what awaits her after playing in Indiana.

“I don’t know if it really sinks in yet,” said Holmes. “I don’t think it’s going to be until the end of my career, which is what I’ve gained since coming here. I do things almost every day that many athletes can’t do.”

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