LINCOLN — Rare is the top-100 recruit in any sport who chooses a mid-major program and sticks to it as power conference offers roll in.
But Kate Cain, a 6-foot-5, four-star center in the 2017 recruiting class, was ready to play at Delaware. She liked the players on the team. She liked that Delaware recruited her for four years. She liked that Delaware knew what it was getting and she knew what the Blue Hens were.
Until the coach who recruited her retired — and the new coach preferred a style that didn’t suit Cain’s game.
That prompted Cain, a Pine Bush, New York, native, to get her release from Delaware and embrace the unknown — a visit to Nebraska. As a result, the Huskers got an immediate, major boost at center for the upcoming season.
Cain’s trip to NU — she visited Dayton, Minnesota and Virginia and looked at Indiana, UCLA and Oregon — sealed the deal for the nation’s No. 82 recruit, according to ESPN.
“The coaches were some of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and they had a need for center,” Cain said. “And the school is great, and all the facilities were crazy. The football stadium was insane. The academic buildings were great — the business school, it’s under construction, but just the outside of it was really cool.”
NU coach Amy Williams and her staff sold Cain on the team’s need for a traditional back-to-the-basket center.
After the transfer of All-Big Ten center Jessica Shepard to Notre Dame, Nebraska had two true posts — junior Darrien Washington and sophomore Rachel Blackburn — on the roster. With Cain, who averaged 25.2 points, 12.3 rebounds and 7.9 blocks per game as a senior, the Huskers have a bridge to the loaded 2018 recruiting class, which includes post Ashtyn Verbeek, the No. 50 national prospect according to ESPN.
Cain referenced the 2018 class as one reason she liked Nebraska’s future. Before Cain left Lincoln, she was able to have breakfast with 2017 five-star signee Taylor Kissinger, which was another bonus.
“I’m just hoping to help Nebraska get back to the top of the Big Ten Conference,” Cain said. “I’m hoping to make an impact to help us get there.”
For Delaware, Cain would have been the top recruit in the Colonial Athletic Conference.
She and her parents are familiar with college basketball — her dad, Tim, graduated from Manhattan as the school’s all-time leading scorer, while her mom, Alison, played at Fairfield and recorded 268 career blocks. Kate Cain said she’d been around basketball all her life, but she really started developing into a more complete player as a freshman at Pine Bush and in the Hudson Valley Elite AAU program.
Pine Bush played in the state volleyball finals, but wasn’t as good in girls basketball. Cain said she was the only player on the team in an AAU program and, for a time, her junior season, she played point guard.
Unlike some players who might hop to a more prominent program to win more games, Cain stayed at Pine Bush and gave a speech at her high school graduation June 24.
“We’re always a little bit of a mess, but it was one of those things where, I liked the girls, I like the school in general, I had a lot of really good friends, and I knew, recruiting-wise, AAU would help,” Cain said. “We didn’t ever make it too far in the playoffs, but I enjoyed my high school team. We still won. We weren’t great, we weren’t terrible. We were OK. So, I liked it.”