As the Las Vegas Aces called out the final pick at the 2023 WNBA draft, pick 36, a sudden realisation had dawned upon Cate Reese. She went undrafted.
With the national draft concluded for the year, her attention quickly turned to the impending training camps that would begin just a few weeks later. But Reese was left disappointed that her name had not been called out.
She spoke exclusively to The Inner Sanctum about how her disappointment then turned to opportunity.
“I was devastated [when I didn’t get drafted],” Reese told The Inner Sanctum.
“Honestly, I was kind of surprised as well. I just had a feeling that I was going to get drafted. But I think that’s what it is.
“I was hoping to get drafted to the WNBA and it just didn’t work out.”
But a chance phone call from her agent had led Reese to Australia, which saw her sign with the Gold Coast Rollers for the NBL1 North this season. Once she made her decision, there wasn’t much point to continue to be worried about what happened because as Reese explained, it’s important to ‘pivot after [falling] down’.
“I talked to the coach [Jackie Brown]. She was great and I was like ‘yeah, I mean I can’t turn this down.’ It’s a good life experience just being able to play in a different country,” Reese explained.
“She’s helped me out a lot with what to expect, how to play [and] she played college in America too.
“So it’s nice to be able to talk to someone [who was] in a league that I was in and obviously knew NBL1.”
A little over two months on from the WNBA draft and the 23-year-old has been thriving since relocating to the Gold Coast. Since her NBL1 debut back in April against the Southern District Spartans, the Texas native continues to dominate on the court weekly.
“I think [the opportunity] was the perfect for me instead of being home in Texas right now, working out and being ready for what’s next. I’m able to still continue playing basketball at a high level and living here, it’s been great,” she explained.
Reese’s decision to pack up things and move down under has paid off immensely for her side. A standout performance among many for Reese was an impressive 37 points in the Rollers’ win against the Mackay Meteorettes.
The American import is averaging 22.44 points per game and is among one of the Rollers best performers this season so far.
Her endeavour with the Rollers comes off the back of a five-year tenure with Arizona in the collegiate system. This includes being named on the All-Pac-12 team four times in 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023. Having previously helped the Wildcats to tournament success in the NCAA, Reese will be looking to do the same with Gold Coast.
For many local and international talents that come through the NBL1 system, many have high praise for the competition. Reese is no exception. Although she gained a reputation for her aggressive play on the court during her college days, the American noticed the difference whilst playing for Gold Coast.
“It’s been great. I think it’s a lot more physical, so I’ve been able to play stronger, play harder and just play against different people than I’m used to,” she explained.
“In America playing in college, you’re used to playing the same people for the most part. But coming [to the NBL1], playing different people that are bigger and push you around a lot more, it’s been a good experience for me.
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For Reese, she uses the roadblocks and challenges, like the disappointment faced at the drafts, as something to push herself forward. It’s a mindset that has helped her become the type of player she is today.
“I think just being confident in myself and knowing that the hard work I’ve put in and knowing my capabilities. Basically prove people wrong. I know that I can play, that I am a competitor and that no matter what happens, I’m always going to compete and back myself.”
Although Reese hopes to get to the WNBA one day, she’s ‘not super focused’ on getting drafted right now. She is looking to remain focused on her progress and make sure that she’s ‘constantly getting better’ and improving on the things that need to be to be the best player she can.
“Just for myself, I [want to be] playing well. I think just setting myself apart,” she shared.
“I’m still young and obviously, it’s my first pro experience. So just being able to do the best that I can in that aspect.”
Reese is currently settling in well in the Gold Coast. She’s thriving on the basketball court, as much as she’s thriving off of it. She is an avid reader and also has an interest in video games. She also likes to be outside and go on walks, which she says being on the Gold Coast is ‘a great area for that’.
“It’s been good. The Gold Coast is a really nice place and I think you know, the players are great. I’ve been getting into a good rhythm,” she says when asked how she feels the season has been so far for her.
“I think the whole Australian experience has been awesome. Like the people are so nice here. Living right near a beach you know, you can’t complain too much. But I think everyone’s been super nice and friendly and just outgoing.
“I think sometimes too that people think I’m from here, but then you hear my accent and you’re like ‘aw yeah, she’s definitely not from Australia’.”
Throughout her time in Australia so far, Reese has developed a close bond with her Rollers teammate Jasmine Hooper. She explained how she’s helped her settle in.
“She’s done a really good job of just talking me through stuff. [She] know that I’m across the world from my family and being there for me if I need anything, hanging out with her. It’s been great. She’s done a great job of helping me and taking me under her wing,” Reese says.
Many women harbour hopes of playing basketball professionally, but for women it can be particularly difficult given the current landscape of the sport. Reese knows this, acknowledging the barriers faced by those wanting to make it in a professional league.
She shared that this was something that previous coaches which she’s played under have given as advice, and it still stands out to her to this day.
“Always give it your best and just knowing that especially for women, there’s not as many opportunities in America for people [to play professionally] besides the WNBA.
“So just knowing that you’re going to be able to experience different cultures and live in different places that you never would have without basketball. I think just being able to soak that all up and remember those moments [is important],” she said.
Reese will be hoping to keep that momentum up with the regular season winding down, with just four rounds of NBL1 North remaining.
Currently, the Rollers are sitting just outside the top eight with their next two matches against the Brisbane Capitals next Saturday and the Ipswich Force on the day after. The team will be hoping to topple the Seahawks the following week, then Red City before they close out their regular season when they meet the Logan Thunder in Round 16.
Reese was optimistic about the Rollers chances in the last remaining games, and was thrilled about the chance to play beyond the regular season.
“We’re ranked tenth on the ladder. So we definitely need to get that down if we wanna go play in [in the post-season]. We have to be ranked eighth [or higher], so that’s the biggest goal right now I can look forward to,” she said.
“Just being able to achieve that would be great. So we just have to finish the rest of the last couple of games strong.”
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