Sophomore forward continues to show she’s one of the Big Ten’s better underclassmen
As the world shut down last spring, Mackenzie Holmes took time to reflect. She was coming off one of the best freshman seasons in Indiana program history, a campaign that saw her carve an immediate role in IU’s lineup and record a school-record shooting percentage of 63.4%.
But Holmes wasn’t satisfied. So she looked inward.
The Maine native wanted to be faster on the floor and more nimble around the rim. The best way to get there, she figured, was to not only work on basketball, but also on her body. Holmes slimmed down and changed her diet, and 10 games into her sophomore season, she’s seeing the results.
“I feel like I’m staying in games for longer stretches of time, but also from the standpoint of jumping and quickness, I feel like I’m quicker and getting up higher when I’m shooting or making post moves,” Holmes said earlier this season. “I feel like that has a lot to do with it.”
Holmes leads IU with 17.3 points and ranks second on the team with 6.8 rebounds per game. She also leads the league at 3.2 blocks per contest, developing into one of the Big Ten’s better bigs. The 6-foot-3 forward has scored at least 13 points in all but one game so far, and she set a new career high with 27 points against Penn State last Thursday.
All of Holmes’ good work has attracted extra attention from opposing teams, who are regularly sending extra defenders to collapse on Holmes when she gets the ball on the low block.
That, IU coach Teri Moren says, is a compliment to the type of player Holmes is becoming.
“Now, her next level of growth is going to be able to play out of those double teams and find the open person,” Moren said. “That’s something we continue to work on in practice.”
Price acclimating to United States
Indiana recently made an addition to its roster, bringing in 6-foot-2 guard Paige Price late last month. After signing with IU in November, the freshman from Australia made the quick move to the United States to join the Hoosiers.
But will she play this season? Moren is taking a wait-and-see approach. Right now, Moren says her priority is helping Price acclimate to her new home.
“We’ve really tried to wrap our arms around her and make her feel comfortable,” Moren said. “Our players are great as far as doing the same and making sure they’re checking on her. She’s the only young lady we have right now living in a dorm. The rest of our players live in apartments. Not that she’s isolated over there, but I do think she misses having people around her when she goes back to her room at night. But she’s been training.”
If she’s able to crack IU’s rotation at some point during the coming weeks, Price could provide some additional shooting punch to Indiana’s bench. Considered the No. 3 international player in her recruiting class by Premier Basketball Report and the No. 55 overall recruit in the cycle by All Star Girls Report, Price averaged 13.0 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.8 assists as part of Team Australia’s run in the 2019 Oceania Championships.
And Indiana’s excited about what she could do for the Hoosiers over the next few years.
“She’s great,” Moren said. “She’s excited to be here. From what we’ve seen so far, she’s what we thought she is, and that’s a tremendous shooter from beyond the arc. But we would never put her in a situation where she couldn’t be successful. Watching our players, she’s champing at the bit. She wants to play and compete and all that. She’s not quite there yet, but we’ll see as the year progresses how quickly she can catch up and catch on to how we do things.”
Penn still on the mend
Indiana won’t have Jaelynn Penn on the court when it travels to Purdue on Thursday afternoon, but the Hoosiers are hopeful that Penn could return before the end of the month.
Penn, who injured her ankle in the Jan. 4 loss at Maryland, received an encouraging report after a doctor’s visit earlier this week.
“She’ll probably be out another two weeks with that ankle,” Moren said, “but as far as structurally, everything is sound and looks good. Now, it’s just about trying to work through the soreness.”