Brooks: With A Strong Cup Of Joe, Reese Ready To Go
BOULDER - It's not that Jen Reese appears to be in danger of nodding off in the midst of an interview, but make no mistake: she is low-key, laid-back and appears generally unflappable.
Linda Lappe, Reese's basketball coach at the University of Colorado, wants Reese to develop more of "a sense of urgency" during the final eight days of February and on into March.
Tall order, but the remedy might be found in a Tall (maybe Grande or Venti) beverage.
Reese, it seems, needs her coffee - mainly the brand brewed by the mega-company founded in the city that next month will host the women's Pac-12 Conference tournament. That would be Seattle, and I think that's enough of a hint as to where Reese prefers to sip.
Lappe calls Reese "a laid-back person in general, but for her to have that little bit of 'oomph' helps how she plays. Sometimes she can be too laid back. She's the type of person that as long as we're winning, she could be fine not scoring one point or getting one rebound as long as we win and her teammates are doing what they need to be doing.
"But as you could see last weekend, we need more of her. When she has that sense of urgency, when she knows we really need her, that's when we see a whole different side of Jen. And that's going to be a big challenge as she goes forward, to bring that consistently no matter the score or who she's playing against . . . the key is going to be can she bring that killer instinct consistently. When she brings that, I think she's virtually unstoppable."
Added Reese: "I agree with her, when I'm more aggressive and wanting the ball, I do a lot better."
Four shots of espresso should just about do it. "Then she gets to be a little more high-key and high-strung," Lappe said with a laugh.
Lappe isn't advocating that Reese be given an Americano IV at halftime to be of maximum benefit to the Buffs. But as they try to close out what could be a special season in CU women's hoops, Reese's role could be vital. Lappe's reference to what Reese did last weekend was aimed at the 6-2 sophomore scoring a career-high 22 points in CU's 71-63 win at Arizona State.
The Buffs' five-game winning streak has vaulted them to a No. 20 national ranking, and in those five games Reese has averaged 11.0 points. And that's despite a scoreless outing in the game (USC) that launched the streak. In her past three games, Reese has averaged 15.0 points and now is averaging 7.6 points and 3.9 rebounds in Pac-12 play.
"She's got her confidence back - I felt like she'd lost it there for a few games," Lappe said. "But it's been good to see her get back in the flow of our offense and start to defend again. She's really narrowed her focus to what she needs to be concentrating on and that's helped her to be able to score the ball . . . it's been good for her to focus on the things she can control."
Reese is a non-starter but in no way a non-producer. She's come off the bench in all of CU's 25 games this season, including 14 in Pac-12 play. She started nine games in as a freshman, but playing in a reserve role this season has allowed Reese time to visualize the strategies already in play and how she might fit in them.
"As the game starts, coming off the bench you're able to see how the game is flowing, how it's going," she said. "Then getting into it feels natural. I let it come to me; I don't force anything that isn't there. I like (coming off the bench), there's nothing wrong with it. As long as I'm playing it's nice. I don't care if I start or not."
Reese said basketball "just kind of came to me" at Clackamas (Ore.) High School, and early on during Lappe's recruitment of her the same conclusion was drawn. Reese's "feel" for the game, said Lappe, "is an innate thing. It was the first thing I noticed in the recruiting process. She just knew the game, how to play.
"And that includes everything - game scenarios, seeing the floor when she gets the ball, she understands angles, just how to play the game and she doesn't have to think about it. It just comes to her. You love to have players like that who have a good skill set and know the game. She's best when it flows for her and she doesn't force things. She's aggressive, but she doesn't have to try. She just does. The best players are the ones that look like they're effortless - and she has the ability to look like that."
Reese's confidence took a hit when she took one beneath her left eye against No. 2 Stanford last Feb. 23. A broken orbital bone eventually required surgery and cost her the remainder of last season. She began this season wearing protective goggles and still is sporting a more advanced pair. Her vision has not returned to 100 percent - "I still have double vision when I look up and to the sides" - but doctors have told her normal sight will return. And even if she's seeing a couple of couple of baskets at times, she's hitting the right one.
"She's overcome that," Lappe said. "There was a segment in there (earlier this season) where she wasn't adjusted to how fast the game was going and how quickly she had to see something. It might have even been that the glasses affected her peripheral vision (and) it might have taken a little time to get used to those. But the biggest thing for Jen is to understand how good a player she is and how much our team needs her to just do the things she can do. She doesn't have to do anything special; just by being the player she is and with her understanding of the game, it just helps our team offensively and defensively."
In the Pac-12 standings, the Buffs trail California and Stanford (both 13-1), Washington (11-3) and UCLA (11-4). Washington State (6-8) visits the Coors Events Center on Friday (7 p.m.) and UW comes in on Sunday (2 p.m.). CU closes the regular-season at Oregon (March 1) and Oregon State (March 3).
Reese believes the Buffs can finish by adding four more 'W's to their five-game winning streak. "I really feel like that," she said. "Everyone is playing their best basketball. As the postseason goes on you see good players do their things and you get opportunities to do that, too. I feel like we've got a great chance to show the country how amazing this team is."
NCAA first- and second-round regional play is scheduled for the CEC on March 23-25, and the Buffs are hoping to be there. But first comes the Pac-12 tournament on March 7-10 in Seattle, where Jen Reese should have no trouble finding a decent hot beverage.