When freshman Ali Reese walked into coach Adia Barnes’ office in August, Reese thought she was going to learn more about the role and responsibilities of a student manager.
Reese walked out as a full-fledged member of the UA women’s basketball team.
It was an unexpected, life-changing, dream-come-true moment. A month later, Reese is still in a state of shock.
“I was nervous getting asked the question, but when Coach Adia gave me the opportunity to play college basketball, I took it,” Reese said.
“Who wouldn’t? I was excited.”
Reese averaged 5.6 points per game as a senior at Cypress Woods (Texas) High School. When she scored nine points in a playoff loss last spring, Reese figured her days as a player were over.
She headed off to the UA and was excited when given the opportunity to be a student manager.
Truth is, she was already pretty familiar with the Wildcats’ program. Reese’s sister Cate is a five-star recruit who has verbally committed to Arizona’s 2018 recruiting class. Cate Reese is the No. 13 recruit in the country and the No. 4 forward in her class, making her one of the highest-rated players to ever commit to the UA.
The two sisters are close.
“When I heard that Ali made the team at UA, I was so happy and excited for her,” Cate Reese said. “It means a lot to me because now I will get to fly up more and see her and watch the games. I am excited to see the team’s second year under Adia.
“It also means a lot because she gets to play another year of basketball when she thought it was over in high school. Yes, high school basketball will be a lot different without her by my side. We have been playing together since I was about 5 or 6. She has always looked for me down low, and I will miss her this year.”
Ali Reese’s move onto the roster was part of a numbers game. Taryn Griffey’s medical retirement and the departures of a handful of veterans from ’16 left Barnes with just eight players on this year’s roster.
The UA coach added Reese and junior Lindsey Malecha as walk-ons to help with practice and bench depth.
“I know Ali very well, and she is a great kid,” Barnes said. “She’s smart and she brings good energy.
“I added the walk-ons because of the situation. It’s tough to practice with eight players, and these are two great kids, so why not add them?”
It took 3ƒ weeks for Reese to complete concussion tests and paperwork and to be cleared for practice. Hurricane Irma was in part to blame: Reese’s high school was closed due to flooding, with her transcripts stuck inside.
The Reeses’ family home was safe.
“We have a higher driveway,” she said, “so there was no damage to my house.”
Reese spent her downtime shooting in the gym. It still was not enough to prepare her for her first practice.
“Yes, that practice was definitely an adjustment,” she said. “I have to get back into playing shape. But I knew what I was getting into. It’s just a higher level, a faster pace. Practice is fun, and it won’t be long until I’m back on top of it like the rest of the players. It’s just getting back into the routine of working out, practicing and eating better.”
What can Reese’s teammates expect from her?
“What I think Ali brings to the team is hard work and determination,” Cate Reese said. “She also plays defense very well and can shoot the 3.”