SOUTH PLAINFIELD, N.J. -- South Plainfield High School senior Mackenzie O’Brien signed her National Letter of Intent (NLI) to play college basketball at Rowan University on Monday afternoon at the school.
During the small ceremony with her family, coach, and administration, O’Brien talked about what it means to her to place her signature on the dotted line and make her commitment official.
“This moment definitely means a lot to me because I wasn’t always sure it was going to happen. I know my family was always behind me saying if you work hard you’ll get there and you have to pushing,” O’Brien said. “It definitely shows my hard work has paid off and I’m going to college. I’m excited.”
O’Brien, who mentioned she plans on studying pre-med, said she enjoyed being around the team, the head coach of the Owls, and the institution itself and what it has to offer.
“I love Rowan. I love the environment and the coaches. The head coach, (Demetrius) Poles, I can see myself going to him if I needed anything,” O’Brien said. “I know college will be a serious transition for me and being away from home and not being around people I’m used to. I trust him as a person and a coach. He has a lot of experience. I just love the school. Once I visited on my official visit the second time and I got to see the whole team and the classes, I saw it in a different light and I liked it.”
Poles played a big part in her choosing Rowan. Last season, the Owls went 15-11 including 13-5 in the New Jersey Athletic Conference. They are 3-0 so far in 2019-20.
“He’s followed me (for a while). He’s very determined. He always said I’ll have other options, but you’re coming here. He’s very confident,” she said. “He said as soon as you get here they’ll have a place for me. I’m very big volunteer for Special Olympics in town, and he went the extra mile and reached out to organizations for me and made sure I can continue doing what I love besides basketball down there in college.”
In 2018, Rowan was recognized by ESPN as a Special Olympics Unified Champion School.
“He was the first coach to really talk about having a life outside of athletics,” O’Brien said.
On the basketball court, in three season thus far, O’Brien has has been a force in the paint. She’s scored 1,121 points and has corralled 1,053 rebounds. Last year, she netted 449 points with 385 boards, 61 blocks, and 48 assists.
“I was grateful to start varsity my freshman year and then the last two going on three with coach Geoffrey Corisdeo. I couldn't have asked for anything more from South Plainfield athletics,” O’Brien said. “They’ve given me so much and an opportunity to succeed and to push for my goals. I’ve had a goal divided for myself since I was a freshman. I wanted to start my freshman year and get a certain amount of points. I love the team. South Plainfield puts a lot of effort into athletics.”
Corisdeo shared that it’s been a delight to see her improve on and off the court over the years.
“It’s been great coaching Mackenzie,” he said. “She’s improved tremendously. I think the most impressive part, and even listening to her now, is how much she’s grown as a person and a leader.”
Aside from basketball, O’Brien also played on the volleyball team at the school.
“It definitely taught me how to jump,” O’Brien said on how the sport helps her with basketball. “I’ve always played sports and I love not really having an offseason. Every year, I played volleyball and then went right into basketball. I also play travel basketball. At one point I ran track. I know some schools kind of limit you and they want you to focus on one thing, but I love that I was able to do everything.”
With one more year to go, O’Brien hopes to break the single-game scoring record in the program of 34 points and net 40. She also hopes to be a leader for the squad and better herself in all areas.
The Tigers open their campaign on Dec. 20 at Woodbridge Academy.
“I’m very excited for this season,” she said.