Arizona’s Cate Reese steps out of the shadows with Pac-12 Player of the Week nod

Cate Reese and Aari McDonald become the first pair of teammates to win Pac-12 Player of the Week honors this season. Why don’t you hear more about Reese?

If you don’t live in Tucson, you may not have heard much about Arizona Wildcat Cate Reese. The former high school star from Cypress, Texas was the first female McDonald’s All-American to ever don an Arizona uniform, but it is another McDonald who people tend to think of when they speak of the Wildcats’ resurgence.

Reese took her first step out of her teammate’s shadow this week when she rose to the occasion, carrying an injury-depleted Arizona team to two victories. It resulted in the first Pac-12 Player of the Week award of her young career.

The Wildcats have played all season without wing Tee Tee Starks. Grad transfer Amari Carter has also played limited minutes in non-conference due to injury. Things got much worse this week, though.

Arizona went into the week with freshman Sevval Gül out with a concussion. The reserve post is one of only five interior players on the Wildcats’ roster. Her 9.5 minutes per game would go to someone else.

Then, senior starter Dominique McBryde was injured against Monmouth on Dec. 2. McBryde, who Arizona head coach Adia Barnes calls a “point guard from the post,” has started almost every game since she transferred to the Wildcats. With McBryde out for up to two weeks, Reese needed to step up her leadership.

The Wildcats also lost two of their guards in the Monmouth game. Now, there were gaps in their scoring. Reese needed to step up her play.

She did just that. Reese carried her team against a defensive-minded UTEP on Sunday. Her 19 points and 17 rebounds accounted for her second double-double of the week. In less than a season and a half, she has 10 double-doubles. Only 11 other Wildcats have reached 10 double-doubles over their entire careers.

It wasn’t a surprise for those around the program. Before Reese arrived on campus, Barnes already spoke in glowing terms about her. Barnes believed it would be Reese who would break the myriad of offensive records that the coach still held at her alma mater. But it was Aari McDonald who emerged first, smashing their coach’s single-season scoring record last season and jumping onto the list of Arizona’s top 20 all-time scorers in just over 40 games.

Her exceptional teammate has caused some people to lose track of Reese despite her importance to Arizona’s success. Last season, it may have even cost her some of her own hardware. Are voters so dazzled by what McDonald brings to the table that they forget how important Reese is?

Reese was a three-time Pac-12 Freshman of the Week during the 2018-19 season. When it was all said and done, she led the league’s freshmen in both scoring (11.8 ppg) and rebounding (6.8 rpg). At Arizona, she was the team’s leading rebounder and second-leading scorer.

It was good enough to get her a place on the Pac-12 All-Freshman team, but it didn’t get her the nod as the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. Dre’Una Edwards, who finished second behind Reese in both scoring and rebounding, took home that award before transferring from Utah.

As Barnes always says, the best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores. That may be true in more ways than one for Reese.

Before the season started, she made her first watch list. The 6-foot-2 power forward was named to the Katrina McClain Award preseason list.

She has backed up the WBCA and Hall of Fame voters in the early going. Reese is averaging 14.3 ppg and 9.0 rpg–both above her season highs from last year. She is tied with Sam Thomas for the most blocks on the team with 11. She has at least one steal in seven of the team’s nine games, and she has scored in double digits in six of them.

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