While Arizona’s season ended Monday night in a 63-45 loss to North Carolina in a second-round game of the NCAA Tournament, there is still plenty to keep an eye on this offseason.
Like Cate Reese’s shoulder.
“Cate will undergo surgery immediately, as she has a significant tear in her tissue,” UA coach Adia Barnes told the Star on Tuesday morning. “Cate wanted to play (in the NCAA Tournament), and we knew she would not risk further damage to her shoulder if she did.”
Reese’s rehab is expected to take six months, meaning she should be back in time for the start of her final college season.
Reese dislocated her right shoulder in the Wildcats’ Feb. 20 loss to Washington State in Pullman. The forward missed the UA’s next three games — losses to UCLA and Colorado and a win over USC — before returning for Saturday’s NCAA Tournament opener against UNLV.
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“For Cate there was no decision” about whether to return this season, her mother, Cheryl, posted to social media, adding “she would never abandon her team.”
Wearing a neoprene brace, Reese scored 16 points against UNLV — one point shy of her Pac-12 season average of 17 — while playing 20 minutes. She scored six points, grabbed five rebounds and had two assists and a block in Monday’s season-ending loss to North Carolina.
Reese was determined to play in the postseason, even though she knew surgery would be inevitable. She worked with UA trainer Jessie Johnson on the side of practice, doing stretching exercises, taking shots and going against someone holding a soft target before eventually moving on to scrimmaging with her teammates. She also worked on getting her endurance back after sitting out for 3½ weeks.
A United States government study of 50 NBA players with the same injury showed that players returned to play in an average of 3.6 weeks — right about the time that Reese returned.
In NCAA Tournament games, Reese’s lateral movement and “high-five position,” which is used for blocks, looked good. Reese’s shooting form was solid, too; she hit a deep 3-pointer in the opening minutes of the Wildcats’ first-round win.
After Saturday’s game, Barnes said she was “really impressed” with how Reese responded. “But that’s who she is. I’m not surprised at all.”