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Former Arizona women’s basketball star Cate Reese to make professional debut late Friday night

NCAA BASKETBALL: MAR 19 Div I Women’s Championship - Arizona vs Maryland Photo by Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Cate Reese was caught in a whirlwind. Just days after learning that she had not been selected in the 2023 WNBA Draft, the former Arizona star was deciding where her next basketball steps would take her. Once it was decided, there wasn’t much time to waste.

“I packed up my room in Tucson in one day,” Reese said.

After getting everything safely to Texas, she was on the way to join a team that had already started playing games.

It’s something her former coach could relate to. Arizona head coach Adia Barnes spent 13 years overseas, often in countries where she didn’t speak the language. It was scary at times, especially on her first trip, which led her to the Azores.

“When I first went overseas, I went to Portugal,” Barnes said. “There was no fast food. There was no mall. There were more cows than people on the island…And we stepped on the island and a big monsoon would come...I was on an island in the middle of nowhere, a tiny island. If you look at a map…it’s like a dot. I was scared because it’s like, unknown and I’ve never lived in such a small place. No one spoke English. It was just such a huge lifestyle change.”

It was a similar experience for Reese’s former teammate Aari McDonald. After her rookie season in the WNBA, McDonald attempted to go to Eastern Europe. She was back in the U.S. in just days.

Reese will not have to face such a culture shock, nor will she have to face it alone. Instead of a tiny island in the Atlantic, she will be in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. Her older sister Ali, with whom she has shared the love of basketball for most of her life, is with her. She lives a block from the ocean, and Gold Coast Rollers head coach Jackie Brown has taken Reese under her wing.

“She’s a great coach, but she’s an even better person,” Reese said.

Reese also has some secondhand knowledge of her new city. Former Wildcat Tara Manumaleuga is from the city. Some of Reese’s new teammates know Manumaleaga from time they spent in the youth national team system.

Reese will also find former opponents on the other side of the court. Former Washington State point guard Krystal Leger-Walker plays for the Southern District Spartans, the team the Rollers are scheduled to play in Reese’s debut.

The opportunity presented by her time in the NBL1 is multifold for Reese. Like all players, she wants to win games simply for the sake of her own competitiveness and desire for her team to succeed. It’s not the only goal, though.

Reese’s play in the second-level Australian league is also an audition for her next job. The NBL1 runs from April to September. The WNBL, which is the upper-division league, runs through the other six months.

“I could go on to play in the WNBL, depending on my performance,” Reese said. “Or I could go play in Europe or someplace else.”

Barnes thinks Reese is ready, especially since she will not have to deal with language barriers or isolation in Australia that players who go to other parts of the world can struggle with.

“I think the level of competition here in the Pac-12 will prepare her,” Barnes said. “She’ll be ready. The difference of going to a place like Australia is there is no language barrier because they speak English, and it’s way more Americanized with a very easy adjustment as far as the lifestyle. So, you don’t feel like you’re overseas as much. And it’s the beach and it’s a beautiful place. And I think that just level competition that she played against here in the Pac-12 and Arizona prepares her to be ready for the Australian league, which is a good League.”