Adia Barnes’ face lights up when she talks about freshman Cate Reese. She’s not alone: Arizona’s other players and coaches have been looking forward to the start of the 2018-19 season, in part because it marks a chance to see Reese in cardinal and navy for the first time.
“A very good basketball player,” said freshman guard Bryce Nixon, Reese’s roommate. “She’s competitive and driven. I think she just wants to be the best player that she can be. It pushes me. She pushes me.”
That’s what excites Barnes, the Wildcats’ third-year coach, the most. It’s not about points and the rebounds — although she’ll happily take them. It’s not the five-star recruiting ranking or the McDonald’s All-American honor.
It’s about the extras that Reese, a 6-foot-2-inch forward from Texas, brings to the court every day.
“Great teammate, great in the locker room, good work ethic — and those are the things you can’t teach,” Barnes said. “You can’t make someone become that way. You can make someone become ultra-competitive. She finds a way to do all that.
“If she has a bad day at practice she’ll say, ‘Oh, I’m so upset. … I thought I could’ve done better in practice.’ I love the fact that she does that. I wish I would’ve understood that earlier in my career — just to work a little harder. You realize later. Hindsight is always 20-20. She’s got that mentality. …. It’s contagious in the sense that it makes everybody else work harder. Other good players don’t want to get embarrassed. If she’s out there diving and you’re not — you’re barely reaching the floor — it’s going to make you step it up a little bit.
“She does that every day. I always say you can’t coach and motivate someone. She’s someone you don’t ever have to motivate.
“She’s driven and her worst critic. Those are things that are going to make her great. It’s not her skill is totally above someone else’s. But her work ethic, determination and mentality will make her a great player.”
It starts with a competitiveness that Reese learned from her father, Bill.
Bill Reese was brutally honest with his daughter, but still supportive. Cate worked to improve her game, even as she dominated the high school competition. She averaged 30.6 points and 15.3 rebounds per game as a senior at Cypress Woods High School in Cypress, Texas. ESPN listed her as the nation’s fourth-best post player and the No. 14 recruit in the country.
“I think he’s just a good dad,” Barnes said. “He’s supportive but hard on her, and I think it’s one of the reasons she’s so tough. If you see her parents, they are both driven and successful, and I think the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
Nobody knows more about Reese’s competitive nature than her sister Ali, a UA sophomore who spent last season on the UA roster. The sisters have been battling since they were little girls.
“I remember when we’d go to training for tennis, we’d play against each other and get so angry if one of us lost,” Cate Reese said. “It’s nice to have a sister that pushes you and you push her and you both get better. I think that helps too, with my competitiveness.
“I always had someone to compete against. Since she’s always been ahead of me by one year, she’s always prepared me. … I think that’s nice and why my transition to college was so much smoother than what it would’ve been without her. It’s nice to have her here helping me.”
When Ali Reese was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in the fifth grade, and the family threw its support — and money — behind the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Cate received the same diagnosis two years ago. She said having diabetes is challenging, but, “You live with it.”
Now, it’s teammate Dominique McBryde who feels the wrath of Reese’s competitiveness. The two battle in practice; McBryde, a transfer from Purdue, has shown the freshman that she needs to be stronger and box out better. Reese struggled in her first few practices, Barnes said, but has improved daily.
“Now she can take it to her a little bit, too,” Barnes said. “Dom is so much more experienced, it’s making Cate Reese better.”
While Reese hasn’t even played the first game of her Wildcat career, she’s already influenced her teammates with her work ethic and impressed her coaches with her drive.
It won’t be long until the top-rated player in Arizona’s best-ever recruiting class is lighting up scoreboards and faces.
“I like the pressure that comes with it, but at the same time I need to be able to be focused on the success of the team. And if that means I’m successful independently and break records that’s a plus, but I’m really here for the team’s success — that we just get better and better,” she said.
“I’m just here to be as good as I can be.”