Reese: ‘Love’ Clark, hoping to defend LSU’s title

BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU Tigers star Angel Reese is well aware much was made about the closing moments of the women’s basketball national championship game in April. LSU had sealed the program’s first NCAA title, and Reese gave wrestling star John Cena’s “You can’t see me” hand motion toward Iowa Hawkeyes star Caitlin Clark, then motioned to her ring finger.

Clark said after LSU’s 102-85 victory in Dallas that she didn’t really notice, but that she didn’t think that Reese had done anything wrong. Clark said enthusiasm, emotion and even some trash-talking are a normal part of competitive sports, the same things she has done herself.

Thursday at LSU’s media day, Reese shared similar sentiments. All eyes are on the Tigers — they added top transfers Hailey Van Lith and Aneesah Morrow and are No. 1 in ESPN’s preseason rankings — and on Reese, the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player. She said she is ready to move forward, but did address the hoopla from April.

“I love Caitlin; we’ve been competing since we were in AAU,” Reese said. “It was always fun, always competitive. One day, hopefully, we could even be teammates. She is a great player, shooter, person and teammate.

“The world is always gonna have a good girl and a bad girl. I’ll take that I’m gonna be the bad guy because I know I’ve grown women’s basketball and inspired people.”

Reese laughed when it was pointed out that “good vs. bad” just depended on which team fans were rooting for.

“Yeah, LSU loves me, but they might not like her. People can think what they think,” Reese said. “Me and Caitlin are cool; we’ve never had any issues. Just knowing I’ve helped grow women’s basketball, and she has, too, that’s all that matters.”

Reese also spoke of the news that the WNBA announced an expansion team Thursday, and how much she wants to play in the pro league and for the U.S. senior national team someday. Like Clark, Reese is a senior but could return for a fifth college season in 2024-25 because of the COVID-19 waiver.

Reese said she isn’t thinking much now about whether she will enter the 2024 or 2025 WNBA draft. She said she will talk with her family, advisers and LSU coach Kim Mulkey about that when this college season ends — which Reese hopes will be with another NCAA title.

The 6-foot-3 forward averaged 23.0 points and 15.4 rebounds last season, had 34 double-doubles, and has worked on her shooting range in the offseason. Morrow, a 6-1 junior forward who transferred from the DePaul Blue Demons, averaged 25.7 points and 12.2 rebounds last season. Both are eager to team up in dominating the paint this season for LSU.

“Angel is a competitor; I wanted to be around her every day,” Morrow said of her decision to come to LSU. “We are doing nothing but making each other better.”

As good as the 34-2 Tigers were last season, Reese hopes they can improve. She’s not just about winning games, but also winning over new fans.

“Women are changing the game,” she said. “I mean, 9.9 million people watched the [national championship] game. The feedback we’ve gotten, men and women reach out to us, celebrities, NBA players. Seeing we have so many people in our corner, I think that helps.”

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