As the only returning player who played significant minutes from last season’s Class AAAAA state runner-up team, Engram was not only counted on for her offense and defense, but also for her leadership.
Even with a change in the reins at the end of the 2011-12 season — longtime Cobb County coach Sheryl Fowler retired and was replaced by assistant Susan Milam — Engram didn’t disappoint this season.
The 6-foot-1 junior prospered under Milam and helped guide the Lady Hawks to a 21-8 record, 13-3 Region 4AAAAAA mark and trip to the Class AAAAAA state playoffs.
Engram averaged a double-double over the course of the season, with 19 points and 10 rebounds per game, and her long reach and strong hands contributed to 3.6 steals.
For her outstanding play, Engram is the 2012-13 Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb County Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
“I was really surprised to find out that I won the award,” Engram said. “I thought it was something that usually goes to a senior. When I found out, I didn’t think it was right, so I feel very blessed and thankful that I got it.”
Engram’s double-double average was a nice plus for Hillgrove, but it was her overall game that Milam thinks contributed to her receiving the honor.
“She’s such a well-rounded player,” Milam said. “She’s not just a big girl that can score inside, Mackenzie could dribble, she’s a good passer, she gets steals and rebounds well and gives out assists. This is a great honor for her.”
It was clear at the end of the 2011-12 season that Engram would become the Lady Hawks’ focal point of the future. With eight seniors gone due to graduation, expectations for success were questionable at best for Hillgrove, but Engram thought otherwise.
And though Hillgrove lost in the first round of the state playoffs, Engram remained proud of her team’s season.
“I thought we did well this season,” she said. “A lot of people didn’t expect us to have a good season. We lost a lot of good seniors who contributed a lot for us last year, so there was some adjustment for us and we came through in the end.
“A lot of people thought we wouldn’t make the state playoffs again, but I’m proud of how we did, and I’m proud of the team.”
Knowing the Lady Hawks would have to rely on her more this season, Engram worked hard on her game in the offseason to prepare.
The results were just what she wanted.
“I really worked on my outside shot and my ball-handling and just being a supportive teammate,” Engram said. “I worked on my attitude, too, and how I responded when I didn’t like how the (referees) made calls.”
Engram noted that some of her highlights from this season included beating McEachern at home for the first time and getting her 1,000th career point against the Lady Indians. Creating new friendships with the incoming varsity players, and developing relationships with them, was also a plus.
A sought-after recruit, Engram is being pursued by several schools, including Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, Louisville, Auburn, LSU and Georgia Tech. The process has been interesting.
“I get so much mail,” she said. “It’s a difficult process, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s interesting. There is a lot of pressure to perform well.”
Milam doesn’t see all of the attention going to Engram’s head, however. She knows that Engram just wants to be the best player she can be.
“She worked hard in the offseason and during the year, and she continues to do so,” Milam said. “She’s very unselfish and humble. She’ll continue to work and get better because it’s what she wants to do. I’m proud for her. She’s done a good job, and she rallied the team all season.”