Indiana’s Mackenzie Holmes blocks a shot by Maryland’s Ashley Owusu during a game in early January. Maryland and Indiana are the top two seeds in the Big Ten women’s basketball tournament. Julio Cortez/Associated Press

Sometimes it’s all a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

Mackenzie Holmes was discovered by the brother of an Indiana University assistant coach while she was playing in an AAU tournament for the Maine Firecrackers. He immediately called his brother, assistant Rhet Wierzba, and told him that he needed to see Holmes.

Wierzba did, then told Indiana women’s basketball head coach, Teri Moren, that she needed to see Holmes. She did  – and now Holmes, a 6-foot-3 forward from Gorham, is one of the best players on one of the best NCAA Division I women’s basketball teams in the nation.

“You instantly fall in love with her,” said Moren, emphasizing Holmes’ ability to beat her opponent up and down the court. “You just never know when you may find a kid you heard about from someone else or stumble upon. She is a great story.”

Holmes, a three-time Varsity Maine All-State selection, was recently honored as a first team all-Big Ten selection after leading the No. 9 Hoosiers in scoring (18.2 points, while shooting 60 percent), rebounding (7.7) and blocked shots (2.9, 11th in the nation).

Indiana is 18-4 and the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten tournament. The Hoosiers set a program record with 16 conference wins and will play their first tournament game at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

And right now, that’s all Holmes – who also was named to the Big Ten all-defensive team – is thinking about.

“I mean it’s a great honor to see the hard work that me and the other people honored put in the offseason has paid off,” she said in a Zoom call on Wednesday. “But these these accolades come at time when we’re very focused on winning. Preparing for Big Ten tournament is my first priority.”

But, she added, she is grateful for all the support she has received this year, both at Indiana and from Maine.

“I’ve had people reaching out to me that I haven’t talked to since high school,” she said. “I’m glad I could accomplish this for future Maine basketball players.”

Holmes credited her offseason conditioning regimen – much of it done while Holmes was home in Saco during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic – with her improved play.

“My conditioning is a huge part of it,” she said. “I really tried to focus on getting in great shape. I’m playing more minutes and you have to be efficient on the floor. That doesn’t happen unless you’re in great shape. I tried to get in the best shape I could.”

Moren, in her seventh season at Indiana, said Holmes’ work ethic is also a factor in her improvement. As a freshman, Holmes averaged 10.8 points and 5.2 rebounds. She averaged 19 minutes a game as a freshman, 29.6 as a sophomore.

“Mackenzie is a very driven young lady, she wants to be one of the best that has ever played in the Big Ten at her position,” said Moren. “This is well deserved and a tribute to the type of kid she is.”


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