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Steadily improving Cate Reese makes cut for Katrina McClain Award

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 16 Women’s Washington State at Arizona Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Naismith Starting Five awards are meant to honor the best players at each position in college basketball. According to the committee, the Arizona Wildcats have one of the top 10 shooting guards in the country, but it would be a mistake to think it was all about the backcourt. They also have one of the top 10 power forwards in sophomore Cate Reese.

Reese was named to the early season watch list for the Katrina McClain Award back in October. She has lived up to the expectations, making the cut for the final 10 that was announced last week.

“It feels great to be seen as one of the top players for my position,” Reese said. “It just shows that my teammates find me down low, and it just shows the hard work that normally I put in. And it’s great to see Aari (McDonald) being seen as one of the best guards and to see Adia (Barnes) being looked at as one of the coaches of the year.”

The 6-foot-2 product of Cypress, Texas led all Pac-12 freshmen in scoring (11.8 ppg) and rebounding (6.8 rpg) last season on her way to the Pac-12 All-Freshman team. She has improved on those stats this season averaging 14.0 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. It has earned her two Pac-12 Player of the Week awards, making her and McDonald the only tandem to take the award multiple times for the same team.

Reese has also improved her efficiency in 2019-20 by going from a 49.3 percent shooter to connecting on 50.2 percent of her shots. She has even hit 38.5 percent of her 3-point shots this year up from just 30 percent last season.

She has increased her willingness to take those shots from 3-point distance, as well. Reese is averaging 1.04 per game this year after taking 0.81 per game last season.

Reese has been tasked with helping defend stronger seniors who also made the McClain award final 10, like Oregon’s Ruthy Hebard and Texas’ Joyner Holmes. She’s held her own.

In addition to position defense that doesn’t show up in a box score, she’s racking up solid defensive numbers. Her 30 steals in the 25 games played so far already exceed the 29 steals she had in 37 games last year. She has improved from 0.78 spg in 2018-19 to 1.2 spg so far this season.

“As a player, I think (the award) is not something she focuses on,” Barnes said. “But it’s something that as a player you want it. You may not say you want it, but every player wants to be an All-American, every player wants to be All Pac-12. If they’re saying they’re not, they’re probably not competitive and they’re not at this level.”

It’s not just about individual players getting awards, either.

“I think it means a lot because it’s national recognition for our players,” Barnes said. “Which is good for her and it’s good for our program.”

Reese joined last year’s winner, Hebard, representing the Pac-12 in the final 10. Reese and Michigan’s Naz Hillmon are the only two true sophomores on the list. They are joined by redshirt sophomores Kiah Gillespie of Florida State and Sara Rhine of Drake as the only underclassmen in the running.