With a motor and a mentor, elite basketball recruit Cate Reese moves forward with diabetes
When Cate Reese was 2 years old, she scampered on tiny legs from the front door of the family townhouse to the back. Then she did it again. And again. And again.
Fifteen years later, the 6-foot-3 junior forward for Cypress Woods (Cypress, Texas) and the No. 14 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Super 60 for 2018 class is still in constant motion. Reese beats opponents from rim to rim. She fidgets in the huddle. She chews gum incessantly. Movement every second.
"It's crazy how much gum I buy," said her mom, Cheryl. "I buy 10 packs at a time, and she blows through it."
Reese has been a starter since her freshman year, when she helped lead Cypress Woods to its only state title. She averaged 22.3 points and 13.2 rebounds this past season, making first-team all-state.
Not even the life-altering news she got a year ago has been able to stop her.
On April 4, 2016, Reese was told she had Type 1 diabetes, a diagnosis that stunned her even though her older sister, Ali, has dealt with the same disease for the past eight years. Cate had hoped to avoid that fate.
"Initially, it was devastating for Cate," Cypress Woods coach Virginia Flores said. "I pulled her into my office and asked her what was getting to her the most about her situation. ... To her, everything and everyone is beatable. But diabetes is not something you defeat. It's something you manage. So when she said, 'This is forever,' my heart just broke for her in that moment."
She's learned a lot about her disease and herself since that day.
"It's made me see life through a different perspective," she said. "You only get one life to live. I'm grateful I can still play. I'm still here."
Reese was a premature baby, and she was kept in the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit for three weeks because her lungs were not developed enough at birth.
Cheryl said she never saw her daughter cry or even move.
She was brought home on a memorable Thanksgiving eve. Soon after, came the pulling, pushing, crying. And crawling. Before long, her favorite saying: "Are you going to eat that?"
She was precocious, too. At age 4, she told her parents she was no longer Catherine or Catie. She was Cate. "I guess I was pretty sassy," Reese said.
She started playing basketball at age 7, and she has grown in her game and in her stature. She is six inches taller than her sister and mother and maybe just a hair taller than Bill, her father.
Bill, by the way, wasn't much of an athlete and didn't expect Cate to be nearly this good.
"She was always tall, but she was gawky," he said. "I always used to tell her, 'You are going to be this tall [player] at the end of the bench.'"
Bill Reese was spectacularly wrong.
By Cate's freshman year, she averaged 12.2 points and 8.3 rebounds on that championship team that featured five other Division I recruits. She averaged 20.8 points and 12.8 rebounds as a sophomore, the same year she joined the Texas Elite AAU team.
It was there that she impressed coach Joey Simmons.
"She's a bulldog," Simmons said. "She plays as hard as anybody I've coached. If the ball is loose, she is diving at it, jumping for it, pushing, shoving -- anything it takes. She never stops the whole game. She's a special player when it comes to being relentless."
You only get one life to live. I'm grateful I can still play. I'm still here.Cate Reese
Simmons said Arizona, South Carolina and Texas A&M have been pushing hard to sign Reese. But Reese said she has yet to decide on favorites.
She is grateful, however, that her parents have been involved, accompanying her on unofficial visits to numerous colleges. Reese said she prefers a warm-weather school but is open to all possibilities. So far, she has visited Colorado, Washington, SMU, Texas Tech, Baylor, Texas Christian, Oklahoma State, Rice, Arizona, South Carolina, Texas A&M and George Washington, and she has scholarship offers from all those schools.
"She's a phenomenal athlete," Ali said of her sister, who is a senior on the Cypress Woods team. "She has a huge passion for the game that I don't see in other people."
Indeed, Cate's competitiveness is legendary among those who know her well.
"When I lose," Cate said, "it's not a fun car ride home."
Ali wants to study nursing but will not continue with basketball in college. Cate, who has more than 1,000 career rebounds and is less than 200 away from 2,000 points, wants to pick a school by September.
Both girls want to attend the same college, if possible. So wherever Ali goes ... Cate may follow.
The sisters have always been close, but the events of the last year have brought them even closer.
It was Ali who saw her sister overly thirsty last year and immediately tested Cate's blood sugar, forcing an urgent trip to the hospital and avoiding a situation that could have become dire if left unattended.
And it's Ali who has been there to answer Cate's questions, let her know what to expect and guide her in her new reality.
On the court, though, the sisters yelled at each other so much that Flores told them they would not play together if they couldn't find a way to get along.
"I get very passionate, and I yell at people," Cate said. "But I don't mean it like that -- I just get excited."
Cate is disappointed that Ali has chosen not to pursue college basketball.
"She has the skills to play at the next level," Cate said. "I love basketball so much that it's hard to believe when others don't love it as much as I do."
A couple of months ago, on senior night, tears flowed on the court as fans, friends and family watched the ceremony. And the sisters.
"Along the way," Cate said, "I've met a lot of teammates who have become like my sisters. But it's been great the past two years of high school and the past four years in AAU to play with my actual sister. It's hard to put into words how much she means to me. She's my biggest supporter and my best friend. I don't know what I would do without her."