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Sunday, April 14
The Indiana Daily Student

sports women's basketball

‘I’ll forever be thankful’: Mackenzie Holmes bids farewell to Indiana, leaves lasting legacy

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ALBANY, N.Y. — The final buzzer sounded. Mackenzie Holmes untucked her crimson No. 54 jersey at the elbow on the west side of MVP Arena. It was all over. 

Holmes walked straight toward the scorer’s table. She and Sydney Parrish held their right hands together for nearly three seconds. It was obvious Holmes wanted to be the first one off the hardwood.  

She was the first to shake hands with University of South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley, before high-fiving the rest of the Gamecocks. Immediately after, Holmes buried her face in her hands. The Adidas emblem on her jersey rested just above her chin. Then she cried as she jogged off the court. 

Indiana women’s basketball was the unquestioned underdog against the undefeated Gamecocks. Women’s college basketball fans knew it. So did the Hoosiers.  

While it may have trailed by 22 points just 2:30 into the third quarter, Indiana stormed back in the final frame to make it a one-possession game. Not once, but twice — two opportunities to get a stop on defense and go take the lead. 

The Gamecocks responded, sending the Hoosiers back to Bloomington with a 4-point loss, ending Holmes’ collegiate career with a loss in the Sweet 16. 

It wasn’t an easy road to get to Albany. The Hoosiers endured adversity all season. Injuries to Holmes and Parrish, blowout losses to Stanford University and Iowa, all while the heartbreaking NCAA Tournament loss to the University of Miami a season ago sat in the back of their minds.  

Just four days prior, Holmes sat in an office chair branded with the IU trident inches in front of her locker. She had just willed her team to the Sweet 16 with a victory over the University of Oklahoma and had already answered six questions at the postgame press conference.  

Holmes was slightly hunched over, explaining how she had just won her final game in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. She wore Adidas’ newly-released Cleveland skyline-inspired shoe, sporting “Psalms 23:4” written on the outside of her left shoe in black marker alongside “AO1” on the outside of her right shoe. 

The meanings? 

“Even as I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, his rod will protect me,” Holmes said about the verse. “AO1 means the audience of one. So just knowing that no matter what happens to me — injuries, winning or losing — God is going to protect me, and the story has already been written.”  

Holmes’ story is a beautifully written one. 

She scored 2,530 points over five seasons and shot 63.9% from the field, both the best in program history. She grabbed the fourth-most rebounds with 989. 

Never mind the stats, the honors she’s received are perhaps even more impressive.  

First-team All-American, three-time first-team All-Big Ten and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year are just a few. 

While she holds record after record after her illustrious five-year career in cream and crimson, her run from an unheralded recruit with just three Power Five offers to the program’s cornerstone is a rather unlikely one. 

“The way that she built Indiana basketball from the ground up with help from Ali Patberg, Grace Berger, but she was the rock of it,” Parrish said. “You don’t find many people like Mackenzie.” 

It’s not just her accomplishments on the court that matter to her. It’s everything else that she’ll remember the most. 

“The team dinners, the bus rides, the plane rides, the fact that we can have fun with each other doing just about nothing,” Holmes said teary-eyed. “Just sitting around with each other, we’re always laughing, so I cherish those memories more than anything on the court.” 

From Gorham, Maine, to Bloomington to Albany, Holmes leaves a lasting legacy on the program and her teammates. 

Without Holmes, Sara Scalia may not have transferred from Minnesota to Indiana and become an integral piece in the Hoosiers’ successes. According to Scalia, Holmes was the main figure in luring the sharpshooter to Bloomington. And throughout Scalia’s two seasons in Bloomington, she’s looked up to Holmes. 

When Parrish announced her decision to transfer from Oregon to Indiana, she didn’t foresee herself and Holmes fostering as close of a relationship as they now have after two seasons together.  

“She’s my best friend, and I couldn’t be more thankful to spend two years with her,” Parrish said. “I wish I had more.” 

With the Hoosiers winning 54 games over the past two seasons, they’ve played in front of a sold-out Assembly Hall twice. Although she already played her final game at home, Holmes explained it was just the beginning for the program. She wants the Hoosier nation to continue to show up and produce even more sellouts. 

Friday proved to be the 147th and last game Holmes donned the cream and crimson. As one may expect, she dreaded having to take off her No. 54 jersey for the final time. Surely Hoosier fans felt the same. 

“I never want to stop wearing this name across my chest,” Holmes said while fighting tears. “Since the second I got here, I found a family 1,000 miles from home, and I’ll forever be thankful.” 

Follow reporters Dalton James (@DaltonMJames) and Quinn Richards (@Quinn_richa), columnist Ryan Canfield (@_ryancanfield) and photographer Olivia Bianco (@theoliviabianco) for updates throughout the Indiana women’s basketball season.

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