Western Mustangs women’s basketball all-star Mackenzie Puklicz has had quite the journey these past couple of years.
From injury-riddled and on a struggling young team to now leading the league in scoring, she has definitely found her place on this young, vibrant and energetic squad that continues to surprise.
Puklicz is a London, Ont., native who was once a player for the London Ramblers. As such, Western was always in her sights.
“I was always sold on the Western experience," Puklicz said.
Now, as a third-year player for the purple and white, she has become a leader in her own right and takes on more of a leadership role.
Before her first year she was battling a left ankle injury that prevented her from playing for roughly 10 months. She gradually started attending practices, but there were still issues concerning her injury.
“I couldn’t do a lot of the running in practice,” Puklicz said.
Despite all the adversity, she still participated in a few games with continual ankle soreness.
The team is now 12–3 on a nine-game winning streak thanks to Puklicz being the point leader in Ontario University Athletics with 19.1 points-per-game. Despite propelling herself to the top of the league, she doesn’t let individual numbers get in her head.
“It's not something that I would focus on," Puklicz said after Friday's win over Nipissing, where she once again led all scorers with 24 points. "It's more important on how many wins we have. I worked really hard this summer and I'm glad to see it paying off."
Puklicz had always been a Mustangs fan and always dreamt of playing for the women’s team.
She attended various scrimmages while in high school and coach Brien Cheng was avery successful in his recruiting approach.
"One of the reasons I was sold on coming to Western was definitely how [Cheng] seemed when he recruited me," Puklicz said. "He was very on top of it compared to other schools.
"He would keep in touch with me all the time and that's definitely what he does with all of his recruits," Puklicz added. "He's gotten very good players for that reason."
Puklicz is doing an honors specialization in economics and hopes to pursue her master's in financial economics, also at Western. Being in her third year, she has narrowed down her education path but is still uncertain on what to pursue in terms of employment.
By pursuing her master's at Western, she can max out her five-year eligibility of playing for the Mustangs. But beyond that, she doesn’t necessarily have hopes to go on and play for any professional teams.
“I’m pretty injury prone, so I’ll see if it's worth it after my fifth year," Puklicz said.
She feels her injury-riddled history with basketball isn’t good grounds to be discussing the future. She also says if she were to play for a basketball team it wouldn’t be for too long — maybe a year, simply for the experience.
Female basketball isn’t very popular around the world and the hub is typically in Germany and various parts of Europe. Some ex-Mustangs have departed for Europe to play professionally.
There is a huge gender wage gap in this sport as one of the top players makes around $105,000, which by league rules is the maximum salary allowed for an individual player.
Puklicz says playing professionally in Paris would be a dream, but only for a short period of time.
If a professional career doesn’t work out, Puklicz is more than happy to stay here and stay involved in the sport as much as she can.
“I don’t think that will be the end of basketball for me, but obviously I will want to be [involved] in coaching and helping out the younger [players],” Puklicz said.