The term student-athlete may be evolving these days but it still applies to Paula Reus.
In fact, it describes her to a ‘T’.
A 6-foot-1 freshman from Palma de Mallorca, Spain, Reus is undergoing several crash courses at once during her first few months with the University of New Mexico women’s basketball team. One might say she’s pursuing a double major in college basketball and conversational English with a minor in New Mexico culture. Reus just says she has a lot to learn.
“Every part of life is more difficult right now,” she said with a smile. “I’m still learning English and I didn’t really know anything about New Mexico when I got here. This is my first time in America. Everything is new.”
Reus, whose full name is Paula Reus Piza, will celebrate her 18th birthday in November. She arrived from Spain in late August to begin workouts with her new UNM teammates and believes she’s ready for the Lobos’ season-opening exhibition game Sunday against Western Colorado.
“I’ve had a basketball in my hands since I was 4½ years old,” Reus said. “My mom, my dad, my brother all played basketball so I know the game. American college basketball is different for me but I’m learning every day. I’m excited for the season to start.”
From a basketball perspective, Reus is well ahead of the typical freshman learning curve. She played for Spain’s U16 national team and has developed an inside-outside game that fits nicely with UNM coach Mike Bradbury’s up-tempo style.
In a recent officiated scrimmage against UNM’s male practice players, Reus scored 11 points on three 3-pointers and a driving layup.
“She’s talented, man,” Bradbury said. “She can hit 3-pointers, put the ball on the floor and she’s probably the best passer on the team. Paula is extremely skilled, especially for a freshman.”
Lobos senior Jaedyn De La Cerda has been equally impressed with how quickly Reus has adjusted to UNM’s playing style.
“Basketball IQ,” De La Cerda said. “That’s what strikes me about Paula. She sees the floor and really understands what we’re trying to do. She gets it.”
When it comes to other aspects of American college life, Reus is not quite as confident. She took English classes growing up but remains self conscious about her second language.
“I only speak English in class before I got here,” she said, “and even then we mostly spoke Spanish. Hearing it every day helps but I don’t understand everything.”
Reus recently experienced a brief moment of panic when asked to do her first local television interview. With wide eyes she turned to Bradbury and asked, “Is this live?”
Bradbury laughed and reassured Reus before the questions began.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “By the time they finish editing, you’ll sound like a genius.”
Daunting as it may sometimes be, Reus has long looked forward to the transition she’s now facing. She had numerous college options but liked what she saw of UNM through online research and was won over by the coaching staff.
“It was a long process because I was looking at basketball and academics,” Reus said. “I’ve always wanted to experience American basketball and my goal is to play WNBA or Euro-league basketball someday. New Mexico felt like a good place to learn and grow and I feel good about it. I really like my team. Everyone supports each other and that makes me feel comfortable.”
Bradbury is still tinkering with player rotations but he expects Reus to see action early and often, even as her learning process continues.
“Absolutely,” he said. “She’ll get better with experience but Paula’s ready to play. For someone who’s only been here a few weeks, she’s picked up a lot. I guess she’s a fast learner.”