College choice made: Whiteland standout will play at Illinois

The process of choosing a college can be a stressful one for any teenager, especially a heavily recruited basketball player.

Mackenzie Blazek wasn’t about to rush her decision, but the Whiteland star is glad to have the process out of the way before her senior year starts.

Blazek gave a verbal commitment earlier this summer to continue her basketball career at the University of Illinois. She becomes the second Johnson County player in the 2018 recruiting class to commit to a Big Ten program, joining Center Grove’s Cassidy Hardin (Purdue).

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The Illini had been on Blazek’s short list along with Xavier and Saint Louis University, and a meeting with newly hired head coach Nancy Fahey and her staff helped seal the deal.

“I really loved the school, and the new coaching staff is great,” Blazek said. “It just felt like a great fit when I went back and visited and met with the new coaches, and I just had that feeling like this is where I’m supposed to be.”

Fahey, a member of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, comes to Champaign from Washington University in St. Louis, where she helped lead the Bears to a record five NCAA Division III national championships in her 31 seasons.

The school’s proximity to home also was a factor for Blazek.

“With it being in the Big Ten, I would come here to play IU and Purdue,” she said, “and (Champaign) is only two hours away, so my parents will be able to see a lot of games. That was important to me.”

Blazek was chosen as the Daily Journal’s Player of the Year this past winter after averaging 18.0 points, 13.4 rebounds and four blocked shots as a junior. In 21 games, she posted 18 double-doubles and had triple-doubles against Shelbyville and Martinsville.

She and Hardin also were both named Indiana Junior All-Stars this summer.

With her decision out of the way, Blazek now can focus on enjoying her final year at Whiteland. She’s taken part in a few offseason volleyball workouts and hopes to play this fall after sitting it out as a junior.

“Hopefully even though I missed last year, I’ll still be able to make the team,” Blazek said.

After that comes what she hopes will be a stress-free final season on the basketball court with the Warriors.

“It’s a good feeling to have my senior year without having to worry about it,” she said, “because I know where I’m going.”

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Ryan O'Leary is sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2715.