Star rankings and recruiting hoopla may mean something to a lot of people, but being in that position means even more to incoming Arizona women’s basketball star and McDonald’s All-American, Cate Reese. The reason why is simple, a humbling diagnosis of a life-altering disease two years ago: type 1 diabetes. Nearly 3 million people suffer from type 1 diabetes; Cate and her sister Ali were among the 15 percent of kids that fall within that category.
The discovery for Cate was based on a hunch by Ali while playing in a tournament in Dallas. During the course of those couple days, Ali knew something was off with her younger sister.
“People kept saying that she looked thin. I mean, she was already skinny, but it was more than that,” Ali said. “So, I checked her blood sugar levels in the car, and they were high. I checked again the next morning, and they were high again. That’s when my mom took her to the ER.”
Cate was faced with the same obstacle she had seen her sister deal with for the past seven years. The prospects of handling the nuances of diabetes are quite a bit different when it’s you in the saddle. Initially, there was sadness and shock. Throw in the fact that no other person in her family besides her sister has ever been diagnosed with diabetes and it makes the situation all that much more off-putting.
Long-term complications can range from eye damage to heart problems if not managed correctly and efficiently. But Cate is known as a strong woman to those that surround her; diabetes simply became another tool she used to prove it. After some reflection, she refocused on her new task and since then hasn’t looked back.
“You have to stay on top of it and make sure that you’re managing it properly because it definitely has side effects,” Cate said. “... It’s definitely something that you have to be on top of when you’re playing especially.”
Future teammate Bryce Nixon experienced Cate’s new daily routine when the two spent the weekend at Nixon’s home in Phoenix this past February. The two are near inseparable, hitting it off on Cate’s first visit to Tucson. The soon-to-be roommates are in constant contact with one another. Their love for competition is rivaled only by chicken tenders and the same mix of ice cream at Cold Stone: Sweet Cream with M&Ms.
Nixon was able to witness first-hand how Cate monitored her blood sugar levels — once in the morning when she woke up, before every meal and before going to bed. On certain occasions, the checks come when Cate is not feeling well, which haven’t been often due to her staying on top of the routine. It provided her with insight when the two get to their new dorm at Arizona.
“She is incredibly brave and strong. She’s a trooper, that’s for sure,” Nixon said.
The same can be said for Arizona head women’s basketball coach Adia Barnes when seeing how Ali dealt with her health.
Barnes was able to watch Ali on a daily basis and understand the details that come with being focused on her levels, as it could reflect in the performance on the court — not to mention the overall safety that she is entrusted with from parents.
“We have to do a great job of educating them on how to take care of themselves, and I know things to look for and things to have available for them,” Barnes said.
Cate is part of the No. 5-ranked recruiting class in the nation for 2018 by ProspectsNation.com. She is also the highest rated recruit to ever sign with Arizona women’s basketball, the No. 13 overall ranked recruit, according to ESPN HoopGurlz. Her performance at the McDonald’s All-American game showed what she has to offer — displaying speed, quickness getting up the floor, a solid mid-range jump shot and the tenacity to be aggressive that you hope to get out of a five-star prospect on her way to an 8-point, five-rebound effort in 14 minutes of play.
The McDonald’s game was the cherry on top of a very productive career at Cypress Woods High School. Cate was dominant throughout her career, capped off averaging 30.8 points per game and 15.3 rebounds per game her senior season.
How dominant was she? On eight separate occasions, Cate scored at least 35 points, including a stretch of four out of six games that saw her score 40 or more. Seven times this season, she hauled in 17 or more rebounds in a game, three of which were over the 21 rebound mark. She accounted for 57 percent of her team’s points in 24 games and 46 percent of her team’s rebounding. Those numbers are not common by any stretch.
Cate stands at near 6-foot-3, the shortest five-star frontcourt prospect Arizona has coming in with 6-foot-4 Valeria Trucco and 6-foot-5 Semaj Smith already in tow. Add in eligible transfer Dominique McBryde, and the Wildcats suddenly have a tall group of freshmen far beyond what they had this past season with undersized forward Destiny Graham being asked to play out of her position and guard a majority of front court players at 6-foot-3 out of necessity. Arizona was the worst rebounding team in the Pac-12 at 31.9 per game.
“Great players want to play with other great players, she is definitely a player that will help us get other great players,” Barnes said. “It will be more evident after she comes and people see her competitiveness, see what an incredible person she is and get to know her.”
Cate says she chose Arizona because of the environment created by Barnes, the weather and to have a background as a student at Eller College of Management. Though she’ll miss her Texas barbecue, she is also looking forward to the cuisine in Tucson. Perhaps she can cook up a new winning tradition for women’s basketball; the expectation is that she will.
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