Indiana Daily Student

COLUMN: Mackenzie Holmes may not be NPOY, but at least give her consideration

<p>Senior forward Mackenzie Holmes celebrates a scoring run Jan. 26, 2023 at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington. Holmes is averaging 22.5 points per game this season.</p>

Senior forward Mackenzie Holmes celebrates a scoring run Jan. 26, 2023 at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington. Holmes is averaging 22.5 points per game this season.

She’s a true throwback player.  

Don’t let the array of post moves and 54 on the back of her jersey deceive you, though: No. 2 Indiana women’s basketball senior forward Mackenzie Holmes is one of the most dominant players in the country, and a perfect fit for the modern-day Hoosiers. 

The national media doesn’t seem to agree. Iowa junior flamethrowing guard Caitlin Clark and University of South Carolina senior forward Aliyah Boston have a stranglehold on National Player of the Year talks, and while the two are more than deserving of attention, I can’t comprehend why Holmes isn’t right in the middle of the conversation.

To get a look into the type of player Holmes is, take it from ESPN’s recruiting profile of her six years ago. “Blue-collar persona. Deceptively agile in transition game. Workhorse mentality on the glass.” It may be the most stereotypical scouting report of a white center ever, but it has perfectly encapsulated her storied career. 

As the focal point of the Hoosiers this season, Holmes averages 22.5 points per game, sixth in the nation, and eight rebounds. Her field goal percentage — 70% — ranks second in the entire country, and she paces the Big Ten in blocks with nearly two per game.  

At each turn, Holmes has answered the call. From the University of North Carolina to Ohio State to Iowa, in the Hoosiers’ biggest tests this season, she has delivered masterpieces. The only time she failed to post at least 15 points came in a 63-point win over Morehead State University. 

Recently, Holmes bested Iowa fifth-year senior center Monika Czinano, one of the top bigs in the nation, in a battle down low. Bested is probably an understatement — Holmes utterly dominated the matchup, cruising to 24 points and holding Czinano to a mere 6.

Even more recently, she recorded a career-high 33 against No. 13 Ohio State on Monday night en route to an 83-59 road victory. Oh yeah — and it came on a cool 15-18 from the field. 

Peruse through Indiana’s schedule and you’ll find similar occurrences. For as gaudy as the stats are, I think you just have to see Holmes play in person to paint a clearer picture. She has extra soft hands to generate a huge catch radius and perhaps the soundest footwork I’ve seen in the low block. 

Teams know they’re not going to be able to stop her. The most imposing aspect of Holmes’ game is that it’s not reliant on sheer size or brute force. She can weave through double teams and use her craftiness for buckets, and her court vision and IQ are too good for opponents to completely sell out to slow her down. 

On the other end, Holmes actually might be a little underrated. She’s a stout presence in the paint and a superb shot blocker, and she defends the pick and roll at a high level as well. If a loose ball starts trickling toward a bench or the baseline, you can guarantee she’s giving everything to make a play on it. 

Indiana fans know this already. The monster from Maine shone the second she stepped foot on campus and has only gotten better each year. Maybe it’s because she isn’t as flashy as Clark, as overwhelming as Boston or as versatile as Louisiana State University sophomore forward Angel Reese, but I would argue no player in the country has the numbers and impact of Holmes. 

It's not just that she’s being overlooked for National Player of the Year honors. She isn’t even being lauded in the games she plays in. In a 92-83 win over Michigan on Jan. 23, Holmes had 25 points and 10 boards, but the broadcasters couldn’t seem to get Clark’s triple double — in an entirely different game mind you — off their minds.  

Then, in a record Big Ten Network broadcast of Indiana’s victory over the Hawkeyes on Feb. 9, Holmes wasn’t mentioned as a factor for delivering the ratings. Just Clark, whose team in fact lost the primetime matchup.

To clarify, I’m not trying to slight Clark, Boston or Reese at all. They are some of the game’s brightest stars who are doing wonders to help grow women’s basketball. Still, something doesn’t sit right with me about totally ignoring Holmes and the unfathomable work she’s put in to help Indiana reach this point. 

I’m also curious to know what exactly it will take to give Holmes her flowers. Will it be a Big Ten title? A Final Four run? Whatever it may be, Holmes will be Holmes in the meantime. So, enjoy the heck out of her each and every game, because we’re watching an all-time Hoosier on an all-time Hoosier team. 

We’ll see if, and when, everyone else wakes up to it.  

Follow reporters Will Foley (@foles24) and Matt Sebree (@mattsebree) and columnist Matt Press (@MattPress23) for updates throughout the Indiana women’s basketball season.

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