One will generally find two types of players in high school girls basketball: athletes who play basketball and genuine basketball players.
Mackenzie Zajac can clearly be categorized among the latter.
Zajac (pronounced zay-jack), a senior guard for Shoreham-Wading River, may be the only true “basketball player” on a team stocked full of good athletes. She certainly has put her time into it. Zajac has been playing basketball since she was 6 years old and started playing AAU ball as an eighth-grader. Basketball is in her blood.
“I just love the intensity,” she said. “I love the speed of the game.”
The results speak for themselves. Following her high school graduation, Zajac will play for SUNY/Cortland at the NCAA Division III level.
“She’s put the time in in the offseason to play AAU, to go to training and her game has just gotten better every single year,” said coach Adam Lievre.
Playing in Shoreham’s three-guard lineup, Zajac has seen her points-per-game average climb over the course of her four-year varsity career (three as a starter), from three to seven to 12 and, as of last week, to 17. The all-conference player said she wants to average 20 points a game and be named to the all-county team.
The 5-foot-7 Zajac, who captains the Wildcats along with seniors Samantha Higgins and Sophie Triandafils, has an affinity for the three-point shot. There is no doubt what her job on the team is. She is Shoreham’s unquestioned scorer.
“We need her to score,” Lievre said. “We need her to end a drought once in a while, hit a big three. She’s delivered so far this year.”
Oh, there was one game, an oddity against Center Moriches, in which Zajac was held scoreless.
“She just couldn’t find the basket,” Lievre said. “She just struggled from start to finish. It was one of those days where nothing was falling.”
When such days occur, Zajac’s solution is to work it out until she finds her shot. “I try to keep my head up and try to just keep on shooting and try to fix my shot, whether it’s my arc or my legs,” she said.
Those days are the exception, though.
Shoreham guard Mikayla Dwyer called Zajac “very talented. Mackenzie, she’s a great shooter all-around and she really keeps us in games.”
Shoreham forward Maria Smith said: “She’s definitely one of the most dedicated players I’ve played with. You can just tell how much she cares and how much effort she puts in.”
Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River senior guard Mackenzie Zajac will play for SUNY/Cortland. (Credit: Bob Liepa)