April 9, 2024 

Mackenzie Holmes says goodbye to Indiana

‘Anyone who knows me knows how much I love being a Hoosier’

For the rest of her life, Mackenzie Holmes won’t often hear her name not somehow connected to the Indiana Hoosiers.

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Holmes’ playing career at IU concluded March 29, after the Hoosiers lost to South Carolina 79-75 in the Sweet 16, but over her five years, the graduate student from Gorham, Maine, turned into one of the most unlikely folk heroes in Bloomington. She finished her career with a program-record 2,530 points, while playing a massive role in Indiana reaching the Sweet 16 three times and the Elite Eight once. Before she joined the program, Indiana had never reached the Sweet 16.

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“I think it’s just knowing that there’s always a next level to get to, and that’s what we want for our program,” Holmes told The Next of Indiana’s underdog mentality. “We don’t ever want to feel like we’ve reached the top, and [we] just have the mentality that we can continue to improve every year.”

Understanding that that next level of achievement always exists predates Holmes’ time at IU. Growing up in Maine, a state that’s never been a big producer of high-level basketball layers, it was always up to Holmes to forge her own path ahead.

During her freshman season in 2019-20, she averaged just fewer than 11 points and just more than five rebounds per game in 19 minutes of action. She slid into a starting role the following year and never again averaged fewer than 15 points, six rebounds and 1.5 blocks in a season. If she didn’t play in the same conference as Caitlin Clark, she almost surely would’ve won at least one Big Ten Player of the Year award. Last year Holmes averaged 22.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. Among Big Ten players not named Clark, Holmes’ 7.4 win shares in 2022-23 was the highest total in the conference since the start of the 2019-20 season.

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Indiana’s success has been due to more than just Holmes — head coach Teri Moren and current and former players including Grace Berger, Sara Scalia, Sydney Parrish and Chloe Moore-McNeil all have their fingerprints on the program’s triumphs. But Holmes has been the anchor of it all.

Holmes may not have been knocking down logo 3s or doing anything on the floor that the average viewer would identify as extraordinary, but that was part of the beauty of her game. Her footwork was immaculate, and her shot-blocking was next level.

Her impact on Indiana women’s basketball is something that probably won’t be fully understood or appreciated for quite a while.

“Anyone who knows me knows how much I love being a Hoosier,” Holmes said after Indiana’s Sweet 16 loss to South Carolina. “I just pray that any high schooler that is looking at colleges that they pick a school that they feel the same way that I have felt about Indiana. I know the transfer portal is huge right now, but I’m here for five years because I loved being a Hoosier, and I loved every second.”

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Rarely — if ever — does Holmes wax poetic about all she and her teammates accomplished over her IU tenure. The 6’3 forward carries herself with a sense of humility, a trait that fit seamlessly with Moren’s vision for the program.

“Accomplishments aside, I’ve met friends that have turned into family here at IU, people that I’ll have with me for the rest of my life, and I think that’s the greatest accomplishment of all is the experiences, the moments and the people that I’ve spent my five years here with,” Holmes said in that postgame press conference.

A little over a week later, as she pondered what she hopes the impact of her legacy is on Indiana women’s basketball on the same day she took the floor in Cleveland for the Women’s College All-Star Game, she once again neglected to talk about her on-court success.

It might sound overly simplistic, but for Holmes, it’s about just trying to be a good person.

“That [I was] someone that they feel like they can talk to, was friendly, that gave them the time of day,” she told The Next of how she hopes IU fans remember her. “I think that that’s what I value the most.”

Howard Megdal contributed reporting.

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Written by Eric Rynston-Lobel

Eric Rynston-Lobel has been a contributor to The Next since August 2022. He covered Northwestern women's basketball extensively in his four years as a student there for WNUR and now works as a sports reporter for the Concord Monitor in New Hampshire.

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