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A Double Victory

Women’s basketball player Casandra Reeves faced her learning disability with the same championship form that helps her excel on the court.

by: Ross French   (May 2005)

It was the winter of the 2002 school year and a thenfreshman point guard from UC Riverside’s women’s basketball team, Casandra Reeves, was afraid she had blown her big chance.

It had nothing to do with her game. Grades had come in from her first quarter at UCR and the results weren’t good.

“I was taking three classes my freshman year, and with the 10- week quarter system I just couldn’t believe how fast things were going and I just got behind a little bit,” she recalled.

“When I found out what my grades were, I cried, I panicked. The coaches had given me an opportunity to come here, go to school and play basketball and I felt I had let them, my family and myself down.”

On the basketball floor, the Apple Valley native was impressive. Reeves played a key role on a team that featured six seniors and eventually reached the second round of the Big West Tournament. But academics weighed heavily on her mind.

“It was really hard for me as a freshman. I thought that was going to be the end,” she said.

“After that I started to get my priorities straight.”
Further complicating the issue was that Reeves had been diagnosed with test anxiety disorder, which can cause panic attacks prior to and during tests.

“When I take a test, or know about a test, I kind of freak out, panic and get really nervous,” she said.

During her senior year in high school it was suggested that she might have test anxiety disorder. She was, not surprisingly, anxious about getting tested.

“I didn’t want to (get tested) because I didn’t want people to think I was stupid,” she said, recalling that it was her mother who finally convinced her to be tested. “I was tested by a special education teacher and a psychologist throughout the spring and just before graduation they told me what I had. They told me I wasn’t stupid, and they told me I would be surprised just how many ‘normal’ people had it.”

Jean Dona, a learning disabilities specialist at UCR’s Student Special Services, said that Reeves is far from alone. In the fall quarter of 2004 she had a caseload of 85 students who were dealing with learning disabilities, including test anxiety, and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder.

“Students with learning disabilities usually have superior IQs and lower test scores that don’t reflect their intelligence,” she said. “It is those factors that identify them as having a learning disorder.” Student Special Services has worked with Reeves to help her work around the obstacles created by her learning disability. She takes her tests in a special room at Riviera Library and gets time and a half to read and focus on the questions.

At first, Reeves told only teammate Holly Peterson about the diagnosis. Slowly, she grew more comfortable and began telling other teammates. The response surprised her.

“There were a few jokes here and there, but nobody made fun of me,” she said. “My teammates know how hard I work in the classroom.”

Her efforts in the classroom have been equaled only by her intensity and accomplishments on the basketball court. As the Highlanders’ starting point guard, Reeves has established herself as one of the greatest basketball players ever to don the UCR uniform. A four-time All-Big West Conference player, she occupies positions on no fewer than 13 UCR career records lists and is in the top ten on 13 other single-season records charts. This year, Reeves became the program’s all-time leader in career assists, threepointers made, and threepointers attempted, as well as the third-highest scorer in school history. Her endurance has also shown through, as she is second on the career lists for both games started and minutes played.

If all goes as planned, Reeves will graduate this year after summer school with a degree in English and a minor in education.

Although the opportunity to play professionally in Europe, South America or Asia is there, she is ready for a new adventure.

“I would love to go overseas and continue playing, but I am so close to my family that I don’t know how that adjustment would be. I talk to my mom every day and that would just be a huge phone bill,” she said, laughing. “I want to go back and get my teaching credential and master’s, then go home to Apple Valley and coach basketball and teach elementary school.”

And five, 10, or 20 years from now, when she looks back on her bevy of records, what will she be most proud of?

“Getting my degree. I have been blessed. Everything I have been through in academics, even in high school, and getting the degree in four years is my greatest accomplishment. If it weren’t for college basketball I wouldn’t be here going to school and would probably be off working at Target or something. I am so grateful for the opportunity that I have had to go out and make my family proud.”

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