BELTON- Coming off a stellar season a year ago in which they went 18-1 in ASC play, the UMHB women’s basketball program is carrying that momentum into the upcoming season. Depth is always a critical component in head coach Mark Morefield’s hard-nosed, balanced attack, and the Cru will have plenty of it, especially with the addition of the freshman class.
Catalina Cortez, of Lubbock-Cooper High School, is a key part of this group, as a point guard who received TABC All-Region and TGCA All-State honors following her senior year. She played in two all-star games this summer, and was a critical part of LCP’s success on the court over the last several years.
True To The Cru caught up with Cortez recently to discuss her commitment to UMHB, what playing point guard means to her, and much more, in this edition of “Catching up with the Commits”.
What made UMHB the program for you?
CC: “It was really when I first stepped on campus. No students were there because I went on a holiday, so that was kind of a bummer, but the campus itself was so beautiful and well-kept. The facilities were super nice. From the start, Coach Morefield and I immediately clicked. I had been watching his leadership of the program before and during the recruitment process and I really liked his coaching style, and the culture of his team. They had a very successful season this past year, and it’s always been a dream of mine to win a national championship ring. I believe I can do it here at Mary Hardin-Baylor.”
You had the opportunity to play in the Faith 7 Texas vs. Oklahoma High School All-Star Game a month or two back and scored 10 points in the game. What was that experience like, getting to represent Lubbock-Cooper High School in that way?
CC: “Playing in all-star games like that is always fun because you get to meet a whole bunch of players who you may know already or who are new faces. They are all so talented and committed to play at the next level. It’s really fun, especially as a point guard to play with that talent. And then to represent my school one last time meant a lot. LCP basketball has meant a lot to me over the last few years and provided me with so many opportunities and blessings.”
You mentioned LCP basketball and the profound impact it had on you. What did you take away from being a part of that program specifically?
CC: “Lady Pirate basketball taught me what it truly means to be part of a family. My coach came to Lubbock-Cooper when I was in seventh grade, so he had me from seventh grade until my senior year, and some of the other coaches I’ve had since my freshman year. It taught me what it felt like to be part of family because they treated me like I was one of their own. A lot of those girls I played with for longer than even school basketball and I got to play with my sister for the last two years. It was a great experience.”
You all went on a run to the State Tournament during your junior season. What are your memories of that memorable season?
CC: “That is probably the closest team I’ve ever been a part of. We had amazing senior leadership and the whole group of girls, it really felt like we were sisters. That’s definitely my favorite memory of my high school career. I’ve always wanted to make it to the state tournament, and it would’ve been great to make it to the state championship, but even reaching the state semifinals and losing in double overtime, those are things that you’ll never forget.”
Playing point guard throughout your career, you’re forced to find good passing lanes and run the offense. Do you think playing that position helped you grow as a leader?
CC: “I’ve always been told that I’m an old-fashioned point guard. I want to set everyone else up for success before myself. I’m more of a pass-first type point guard, but I can hit shots when I need to. I’m good at creating [shots] for my teammates and in doing that, it’s allowed me to gain some respect from my teammates to where I can develop in that leadership role. Learning how to communicate with everyone has also helped me in developing my leadership because everyone is different; some take criticism one way, others you have to really build up when they are down. It’s made me more vocal and helped me become an extension of the coach, because you have to be that floor general and a steady, calming presence.”
You see the floor remarkably well. Has your pass-first ability as a point guard always been a natural aspect of your skill set?
CC: “Being a pass-first point guard has always come naturally to me. But over the years, I’ve had to get better at scoring and being a threat myself. There’s points when it’s hard, because you don’t get the recognition because you’re having to do all the dirty work, and that doesn’t show up, besides assists, on the stat sheet. I’ve had to learn to be ok with that. As long as we’re winning, that’s all that matters.”
As you prepare for your freshman year at UMHB, has there been anything specific you’ve been working on over the last few months?
CC: “You can always be in the gym working to get better. For me personally, I’ve really been working on my mid-range [shooting] game. I want to become a knock-down shooter, where there’s no doubt that it’s going in. This whole summer, I’ve been working on getting stronger and doing the little things better and getting faster because I am a very undersized player. I don’t ever want that to be an excuse.”
What are you most excited about as you make the transition from high school to college?
CC: “I’m so excited to play with this group of girls specifically because they are a very talented group and I believe that I can really make an impact coming in as a freshman. I’m really excited to play under Coach Morefield and get a feeling for the other coaches and make new friends. We had a camp for the incoming freshman girls basketball players a couple weeks ago, and it was so cool getting to meet everyone and learn about their backgrounds and already start gelling together [even before the school year starts].”