To kick off the Fall, we are continuing our Friday Feature’s. These Friday Features showcase some of the Class of 2019 committed players. Our goal with these is to give a glimpse into committed senior’s basketball journeys and their thinking throughout the college recruiting process to share with other aspiring college basketball players.
In this week’s Friday Feature, we interviewed Mackenzie Holmes. She gives her perspective into her overall recruiting process with thoughtful responses and insight. We also got a chance to hear from her Maine Firecrackers coach, Don Briggs.
Enjoy this week’s Friday Feature with Indiana commit, Mackenzie Holmes!
Mackenzie Holmes, Class of 2019, 6’2, Pos: C, Gorham/Maine Firecrackers – COMMITTED TO: INDIANA
When did you first start playing basketball?
Growing up in a basketball family, I have been playing basketball as long as I can remember. I don’t remember a time in my life when basketball was not a part of it.
What was your overall recruiting process like and what were some of the schools that showed interest in you?
Overall, I would say my recruiting process was a positive experience.
Though it was a little hectic at times, I matured and grew as a person a lot because of it. It was very exciting to be recruited and given the opportunity from schools to play college basketball. However, as my junior year began I realized it was time to narrow down schools and begin my decision-making process. The recruiting process also allowed me to meet some great people and I will always be thankful for that. Some other schools that showed interest in me other than Indiana were Boston College, Iowa State, Dayton, and Belmont.
Did your family, friends, etc. play a role in your decision and how so?
My family, friends, teammates, and coaches supported me every step of the way during the recruiting process. All they wanted for me was to pick a school that I would be the happiest at whether it was close to home or far away. This made the decision making easier. I was also lucky enough to have former teammates who could give me advice about the process along the way.
Tell us a little bit about your high school and AAU experience and how both played a role in your decision.
My high school and AAU experiences have both been great. Playing with my AAU team, we got the chance to battle against some really great competition. Playing against these teams made me want to play at a high level in college and when I got the opportunity to do so I knew it was what I wanted.
In the end, why did you choose Indiana?
During my recruiting process, I visited a lot of schools, but I never quite got the feeling at any other school like the feeling I got when I walked on campus at Indiana. They checked off every box for what I was looking for in a school. I wanted a school where I could compete at the highest level and I know I will find that at Indiana. I wanted a school that had coaches I connected with. The coaches at IU instantly made me feel at ease and forming great relationships with them came easy. I wanted a school that had an atmosphere and excitement about basketball and of course, the Hoosiers love basketball. The only difficult part will be being so far away from home; however, my brother is enrolling in Indiana University next fall as well and while visiting, I could already tell Bloomington would be a home away from home to me. I am sure I will continue to get support from everyone back home in Maine.
What are you most looking forward to at Indiana?
There really isn’t one specific thing that I am most looking forward to. There is a lot to be excited about – I can’t wait to start the next chapter of my life.
What is your favorite memory playing basketball growing up?
Basketball has provided me with a lot of great memories, winning championships and individual achievements, but really my favorite memories are the people I have met along the way. Whether it be coaches, teammates and their families, what I think I will remember the most are the relationships and lifelong friendships I have built.
Any advice for players who are looking to play at the next level?
(About the recruiting process, on and off the court, etc.)
I think it’s important to really have a plan about what you want not only with the basketball part of it, but with your future goals. When it comes to recruiting do your homework about the schools and their programs. Finally, just keep in mind that if you want to play at the next level, you have to make a commitment to your game. You also have to make a commitment in the classroom. Putting in the extra work in the classroom matters. I think playing for the Firecrackers opened my eyes to what kind of sacrifice it takes. It takes a lot of work but it will all pay off in the end
How will your high school team be this upcoming season? What are your goals entering your final season?
My High School team should have a strong year as we have 9 out of 10 players back from our team last year that lost by 1 point in the Class AA State Championship. My goals entering my final season is to put everything I have into it and have no regrets looking back.
What are you most excited for in your senior year?
I think I am most excited about one more opportunity to represent the town I grew up in. I am excited about graduating with friends I grew up with and hopefully making some more memories our final year together that we will keep for a lifetime.
Check out what Maine Firecrackers Head Coach, Don Briggs had to say about Mackenzie!
When did you first see Mackenzie play?
I first saw Mackenzie play when she was in 7th grade. It was the AAU Maine State Tournament and she was playing on another club team. Her team at the time was playing up two age levels against our 14U team (that went on to win the National AAU Championship).
My recollection of that first experience…she was very skilled even at that age. Soft hands and excellent footwork. Both attributes that would be her trademark over the coming years. I do recall her being the only significant player on that team and her scoring the majority of the points in a wide margin loss. I remember talking with my team at halftime saying let’s get a bit more physical with her and see how she responds. While she took a beating in the second half, I had much respect for her attitude and demeanor. Never was rattled, just kept competing. I thought she had great potential due to her skill set but more importantly her mind and competitive spirit.
What have you enjoyed most about coaching Mackenzie?
Mackenzie joined our program in 8th grade and as I noted previously was already very skilled. I have shared her story many times…basketball was not always easy for Mackenzie. She struggled early on in our program. Because of her size, she had played the middle of a zone almost exclusively and when she did play man to man it was always standing behind the offensive player. She was taught to stand with her hands straight up and not to jump. For those that know this, that is not how we play. Conditioning was not part of her training - in or out of practice prior to joining us. Her world changed that first day at practice…she made it through about 20 minutes before she tapped out. And while we as coaches have seen this before, the transformation Mackenzie went through over the next 3 months is “special”. We had a long discussion after that first practice. We talked about commitment, conditioning, and you will be coached as an athlete – not a “big kid”. So, when you ask the question…what have I enjoyed most about coaching Mackenzie…here goes:
She cares deeply about having success, performing well, and being a great teammate. She loves her teammates and celebrates their success more than they do themselves. She is coachable to the highest degree. She has a high IQ, asks great questions, and wants to improve in all aspects of her game. She is selfless…an incredible passer out of the post. Teammates love playing with her. She never won a sprint in practice but she always pushed herself to maximum effort. She transformed her body from a “big kid” to a division 1 athlete in 4 months. It wasn’t always easy…hours in the gym, running on the road, lifting weights and managing her diet. Her commitment to self-improvement, willingness to be coached, and setting a high standard of performance/effort has established her as quite possibly the best post player ever to play in Maine (Male or Female).
Tell me a little bit about Mackenzie as a person off the court?
Mackenzie loves life. She doesn’t take herself too seriously and because of that she is able to laugh at herself. This is a great life quality and something I have grown to appreciate about her at such a young age. As I stated previously, she loves her teammates and is very supportive. She attends their fall sports activities even though they go to different schools. Mackenzie always has a smile on her face and kind word.
What are you most excited about seeing Mackenzie do at the next level?
As long as I have known Mackenzie she has always had a goal of playing at the highest level possible. With that said, we put together a schedule that allowed her and her teammates to test themselves against highly talented athletes and teams from around the country. Quite frankly, there is a lot of talent in New England and we are fortunate to have the programs, coaching, and ability level so close to home.
So, I am excited to see Mackenzie compete as a freshman. Her mindset and work ethic in a Division 1 atmosphere, playing in the Big Ten, being coached every day for success. I am excited to see how she develops throughout her career and the future opportunities that basketball may present.
Any other thoughts?
I have been blessed as a coach to have had the opportunity to coach a lot of talented kids from Maine. We have tried to instill a work ethic, a mindset, a competitive spirit, and a family atmosphere since our inception back in 2005. What I love about this group of seniors is they wanted to leave it better than they got it. Mackenzie and her teammates have left a lasting impression on younger Firecrackers but more broadly around the state of Maine. The thing I will miss the most is the Mackenzie Holmes bear hug! Lots of love in that hug…