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2024 WNBA Draft watch: Mackenzie Holmes continuing uber-efficient low-post play in fifth season with Hoosiers

Center Mackenzie Holmes chose to return to a rising Indiana Hoosiers program for a fifth season, which all but guarantees her spot at the top of the program’s record books. Highly skilled in the paint, Holmes is one of the country’s most efficient scorers.

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Michigan v Indiana
Mackenzie Holmes continues her highly-efficient play in her fifth season at Indiana.
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Indiana Hoosiers (10-1) are off to another strong start, and figure to once again be in the mix at the top of the Big Ten standings. This level of success has become common under Teri Moren, who has coached the Hoosiers to four-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances and last season led the Hoosiers to their first conference championship since 1983.

Moren’s tenure also has been defined by standout players, with names like Tyra Buss and Grace Berger rewriting the Hoosiers’ record books and putting the program on the map as a destination for big-name recruits and transfers.

Indiana’s latest record-breaker? That would be Mackenzie Holmes, who at 6-foot-3 is one of the nation’s finest low-post scorers. Holmes, who recently scored her 2,000th point and is closing in on Buss’ program record of 2,364, chose to exercise her extra year of eligibility granted during the COVID-19 pandemic and return to Indiana for a fifth season. At this point in her career, the numbers are only a formality—she’s long since made a name for herself as one of the greatest players in Hoosiers history.

Holmes, who teammate Sydney Parrish describes as a foundational player, doesn’t just stand out among her peers in the Big Ten; statistically, she grades as one of the most efficient players in all of Division I, and it’s surely going to earn her consideration as one of the top centers in the class in next year’s WNBA Draft. For now, though, let’s go over Holmes’ stats and what makes her game so effective.

Honors and statistics

Holmes was named the Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Maine in 2019 and was ranked No. 53 in her recruiting class by ESPN’s HoopGurlz. Her role as a freshman at Indiana was relatively small, but she was effective in it, averaging 10.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per game while shooting 63.4 percent from the floor—a sign of things to come. Holmes was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team in the COVID-shortened season.

From her sophomore season onward, Holmes has put up consistently excellent numbers as Indiana’s starting center. She averaged better than 15 points and seven rebounds per game and shot over 60 percent from the field in each of her previous three seasons. As a senior, she averaged 22.3 points on 68 percent shooting.

For her efforts, Holmes has racked up a laundry list of awards. She’s been named to the All-Big Ten Team three times and was named the conference’s Defensive Player for 2022-23. Holmes also received several national awards last season, including All-American honors courtesy of the Associated Press, WBCA and USWBA. Both the All-American and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors were the first by any player in Indiana program history.

Holmes remains one of the country’s most efficient paint scorers

Evansville v Indiana
Mackenzie Holmes at the rim — as sure of a thing as there is in college basketball.
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

One look at Holmes’ numbers and it’s easy to guess what her biggest strengths as a player are. Having never shot below 60 percent from the floor in a season, Holmes is the Hoosiers’ anchor in the paint—and there aren’t many who are better. According to Her Hoop Stats, Holmes has ranked in the 99th percentile or better in field goal percentage in every one of her seasons at Indiana, and last season—her masterpiece—she finished third in Division I in points per play (1.24).

While the results are undeniable, the beauty of Holmes’ game is how effortlessly she seems to get them. Though she doesn’t have overwhelming size for a center, Holmes scores easily and often with an arsenal of low-post moves that are as polished as an expensive gemstone. Her top-notch footwork and silky-smooth finishes make her a threat either facing up or with her back to the basket. As with most frontcourt players who pride themselves on their paint scoring, Holmes can both attack and finish with either hand, and she has the court awareness to quickly and effectively assess defenses and pick the right move. Her offensive game simply has too many facets for opponents to take away all at the same time.

It should also be noted that Holmes drives efficient Indiana offense in more ways than simply waiting for the ball in the post. She posts up very frequently—about 45 percent of Holmes’ possessions during her historic senior season came via post-ups, according to Synergy Sports—but she’s adept at operating in space, too. Last season, 16 percent of Holmes’ offensive possessions came on cuts and 11.7 percent came from the pick and roll, and she scored better than 1.35 points per possession (94th percentile) on each play type.

Will this benefit Holmes in the eyes of WNBA coaches and GMs? Her fundamentals as a frontcourt scorer are beyond reproach, but does she have the size to hang with professional centers for extended minutes, especially on defense and on the boards?

These are questions that are asked of almost every center with pro aspirations, and it’s certainly not out of disrespect to Holmes, who established herself as one of the best at her position long ago. For now, we’ll continue to watch her climb the historical leaderboards at Indiana as the Hoosiers’ best player and fuel her team to yet another NCAA Tournament appearance.

Watch her play

With Big Ten play officially underway, there are plenty of opportunities to watch Holmes and the Hoosiers in the near future. Nationally-televised matchups for Indiana include the No. 4 Iowa Hawkeyes (Jan. 13; FOX), the No. 17 Ohio State Buckeyes (Feb. 4; FS1) and the Illinois Fighting Illini (Feb. 19; FOX). All other Hoosier games prior to the Big Ten Tournament (which begins on March 6) can be streamed live via the B1G+ or Peacock streaming services.

All statistics and team records for the 2023-24 NCAA season are current through Dec. 30, 2023.