Long standing above most of her peers and raised by parents with a history in hoops, Caitlyn Riese has been encouraged to pick up a basketball from an early age.
From coaches to parents to teammates, nearly everyone believed the 6-foot-1 senior was destined for great things on the court. She just had a different sport in mind.
While her first love remains in volleyball, the Colo-NESCO lefty stayed on the hardwood long enough to see just how far she and her teammates could go.
T-R PHOTO BY TYLER STRAND
Colo-NESCO senior center and 2013-14 Times-Republican All-Area Girls Basketball Player of the Year Caitlyn Riese poses in front of Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines with the state tournament trophies the Royals received there the last two seasons.
Helping her squad earn back-to-back trips to the Iowa Girls State Basketball Tournament, Riese capped her career with a pair of breakout performances to lead the Royals to their best finish in 12 years.
Nearly piling up a pair of double-doubles at Wells Fargo Arena, Riese left a strong lasting impression in her final games for Colo-NESCO and is the 2013-14 Times-Republican All-Area Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
Riese poured in 17 points and nine rebounds against Newell-Fonda in the semifinals after racking up 19 points and 13 boards in a quarterfinal win over Lynnville-Sully to earn a spot on the Class 1A all-tournament team.
2014 Times-Republican All-Area Girls Basketball Team
Player of the Year - Caitlyn Riese, sr., Colo-NESCO
Coach of the Year - Marsha Keahna, South Tama
Shayla Dean, jr., Colo-NESCO; Taylor Fricke, jr., East Marshall; Sam Hughes, jr., Marshalltown; Katie Lindeman, so., Grundy Center; Kayla Prosser, sr., South Hardin; Gabby Reyerson, so., West Marshall.
Olivia Barritt, jr., GMG; Rachel Blagg, jr., Marshalltown; Sarah Boomgarden, jr., South Hardin; Olivia Callaway, so., BCLUW; Tieranny Keahna, so., South Tama; Josie Youel, sr., North Tama.
Nicole Adair, jr., Gladbrook-Reinbeck; Ashley Allen, jr., East Marshall; Madie Bacon, so., South Tama; Madison Fryslie, sr., AGWSR; Deah Moore, sr., Meskwaki Settlement; Sam Zobel, sr., North Tama.
Coming through on the biggest stage proved to Riese what many had believed for years - she's more than capable on the basketball court.
"It was just kind of what everyone else knew all along," Riese said. "That I was pretty good, I just needed to realize it for myself."
Riese wasn't the only one to take notice.
The Iowa Girls Coaches Association, the Des Moines Register and the Iowa Newspaper Association all named her to their respective all-state first-teams. Riese averaged a team-best 15.5 points per game along with 6.2 rebounds as the Royals racked up a 24-2 record on the heels of last season's 23-3 campaign.
It's impossible to imagine the Royals reaching those same heights though had Riese hung up her sneakers after a difficult sophomore season. Playing through a broken finger on her shooting hand for nearly the entire year, Riese considered shifting her focus solely to the volleyball court, but instead returned with a renewed strength and vigor.
"I didn't say a whole lot to her, she kind of came back on her own," Royals coach Wayne Cafferty said. "She worked hard that summer in the weight room and we went to the Central College team camp where she just exploded and really came into her own. With the added strength and explosiveness came confidence."
Her production followed a similar ascent.
After hitting just 33 percent of her field goals as a sophomore, Riese again led the team this year with her second-straight 57-percent clip, while also tacking on 25 blocks and 41 steals in her senior campaign. Bumping her scoring production by over four points from her junior season, the four-year starter also raised her free-throw percentage from 47 to 63 as the Royals captured their second straight Iowa Star Conference South Division title.
Riese also took on a larger leadership role and - along with fellow senior Madison Farren - further strengthened team chemistry by handing out weekly awards to teammates.
"She became more vocal and led through her example of working hard," Cafferty said of Riese, who established her work ethic early with many chores growing up on a farm.
"She and Madison took some ownership of the team in their leadership."
Riese has always taken ownership of her play and still takes things hard when she makes a mistake, though now she's able to move on to the next play a lot quicker.
"I'm still hard on myself but I can get over it easier," Riese said.
"I just move on and try to make a play on defense if I miss a shot. If I miss on defense, I try to make a play on offense."
While the list of college basketball suitors - including Division I Southern Illinois - continued to grow for Riese, she's remained confident and consistent in her aspirations to pursue volleyball at either Augustana-Rock Island, St. Thomas (Minn.) or Wartburg.
Riese is making her second appearance on the T-R All-Area squad after claiming second team honors last year. Fellow Royal Shayla Dean joins Riese on this year's first team, along with South Hardin's Kayla Prosser, Marshalltown's Sam Hughes, West Marshall's Gabby Reyerson, East Marshall's Taylor Fricke and Katie Lindeman of Grundy Center.
South Tama County's Marsha Keahna is the 2013-14 Coach of the Year after guiding the Trojans to a North Iowa Cedar League West Division title with a 13-1 mark in conference play.
Riese's father, Doug, played on the 1989 and 1990 Royals boys' state tournament teams. Her mother, Lisa, was a defensive specialist and played 6-on-6 basketball in high school.