As Nebraska prepares for the WNIT, an opening-round matchup with Tennessee-Martin (20-5, 17-2 OVC), and the first of two guaranteed games, there’s an individual storyline that almost hangs over the whole trip.
What will Kate Cain decide come season’s end?
The senior center can come back to Nebraska for a fifth season next year thanks to the NCAA, or she can move on to prepare for the WNBA Draft.
Cain has been a shot-blocking, paint-patrolling, defense-anchoring stalwart at Nebraska for her entire career. She holds the program’s single-game blocks record, the single season blocks record, and the career blocks record. As things stand, she’s sixth in Big Ten history in rejections.
Cain is just the ninth player in Nebraska history to achieve the combined career milestones of 1,000 points and 750 blocks. Her longevity has been remarkable. She’s played in every game during her four years at Nebraska and only come off the bench once (115 starts in 116 career appearances).
“I love Kate, and she’s been a huge leader for me,” said sophomore forward Issie Bourne on Wednesday. “She’s helped me improve so much on and off the court. She’s very approachable, easy to talk to, will always be that person you can call if you need something.
“Whether she stays or goes, I’m happy and excited for her. I’ve just loved playing with her, and I think she’s been a huge part of this team and the reason we’ve had these successes this year.”
Whether she stays or goes, that sentiment has been shared by the rest of the team. Of course teammates and coaches alike would want Cain around as long as possible, but none are putting pressure on her.
“The coaches have really respected the idea that I really want to just focus on this season as it goes,” Cain said.
Her preference is to wait until the year is completely finished, then weigh the pros and cons of another year in Lincoln, making the WNBA wait. Coaches have respected that.
Cain says her mind isn’t made up.
“I’m not 100% certain on anything,” she said. “I think dwelling on the ‘if I stay, if I go’ type of scenario will just overall stress me out.”
The Huskers, both by Bourne and Cain’s admission Wednesday, expected to earn the WNIT bid that was announced Monday night. Following their performance in Indianapolis, it seems no one thought the Maryland game was their last.
And Cain has gone through the latter parts of this season actively avoiding that pitfall.
“I feel like towards the end of the season, a lot of these games were easy to dwell on (and think) this is my last game playing here, or this could be my last game playing here, but personally after the Maryland game I was pretty certain we were going to go to the WNIT, I really had a lot of confidence in that, so it wasn’t one of those types of things where I was like, ‘Ooh this could be the end of it all,’” Cain said.
Though she’s not popping up in mock drafts right now, Cain doesn’t seem particularly interested in showing out for team scouts in the postseason, or really in talking about her individual play at all for that matter.
“Winning it would be nice,” she said when asked about goals for the upcoming tournament.
But Nebraska’s results, at the end of the day, might not even influence her decision.
“It isn’t one of those things where like, if we win I’ll stay, if we lose I won’t,” she said. “It’s not something like that.
“More so, my decision weighs on personal things and opportunities for myself in the future. I really need to evaluate all of that with my family and the coaches. Trying to push that off as far as I can has really been able to help me kinda stay with it and just focus on each game that is at hand.”
That would be UT Martin. The Huskers and Skyhawks tip off against each other in Memphis, Tennessee, on Friday at 11 a.m. CT.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.