Hoelmenn brings size, defensive power to women’s basketball

By Jacob Onak

NIU women’s basketball isn’t the biggest or tallest team that you are going to see in college basketball, but one player that gives it size is freshman McKenzie Hoelmenn.

Hoelmenn is out of Lakeville, Minn., and is listed as a 6’2” forward/center. Due to her skill set, Hoelmenn prefers to play more inside the paint.

“Offensively I’m more of a center,” Hoelmenn said. “I can shoot but I’m more on the inside, I’m good around the basket. Defensively I am pretty quick on the inside and tall so it works out for me.”

Coach Kathi Bennett said she has really liked what she’s seen out of Hoelmenn in the early stages of the season.

“[She’s] aggressive,” Bennett said. “What she brings to the table is the intangible of being relentless and aggressive. She really bangs, we haven’t had someone with the physical presence inside that’s not afraid of contact. She just has a motor where she keeps going and going. So she’s had, what I think, a real good start, I’m sure she wants it to be better, but she’s done a great job and its only going to get better.“

This season the Huskies inexperience comes from post play. Freshman forward/center Nichole Wittman has seen a lot of time this season along with Hoelmenn but the two are still learning the ropes of college basketball.

This season Hoelmenn has appeared in six games for NIU, and got her first career start in the Huskies last game against Indiana State. Hoelmenn said she was happy to get a start as a freshman.

“I was excited and nervous because I wanted to come out strong right away and give it my best,” Hoelmenn said. “I was really excited to get a shot at it.”

This season Hoelmenn, much like the other freshmen on the team, is still trying to find her rhythm offensively. She is averaging 2.7 points per game, along with 3.2 rebounds a game, averaging 14.3 minutes per game.

Defensively Hoelmenn is getting better every time she steps out on the court, getting tougher and stronger as she transitions into the bigger, faster college game.

Hoelmenn said her decision to come to NIU had to do with the chemistry.

“It was definitely the coaches here and the team,” Hoelmenn said. “They are totally like a family here and I just felt comfortable, not like any school. So I just really liked the environment”

The Huskies have six games before MAC play starts, and will need their freshmen, like Hoelmenn and Wittman to step up on the inside if they are going to be successful in conference play.