LSU Women’s Basketball’s Angel Reese: Frequent Talks With Shaq ‘Great For Me’

In November, LSU women’s basketball star and Randallstown native Angel Reese missed four games and head coach Kim Mulkey declined to explain why.

Reese returned for the Tigers’ Nov. 30 matchup against Virginia Tech, scoring 19 points and pulling down nine rebounds in a typical Reese effort. She told reporters following the game that her four-game absence was a mental health break, explaining that she stepped away from the team as to not be a distraction in the locker room.

Otherwise, Reese has picked up where she left off last season when she led LSU to the national title. The 6-foot-3 senior forward is averaging 19.1 points and 10.5 rebounds per contest for the Tigers, who are 11-1 on the season entering their game at Coppin State on Dec. 20 at 6 p.m.

Reese credited Naismith Hall of Famer and LSU legend Shaquille O’Neal for helping her through the two-week stretch away from the team; the two met during the 2022-23 season. O’Neal is the president of Reebok Basketball, and in October, Reese signed an endorsement deal with Reebok.

“He has always built a relationship with me before even signing to Reebok, so having somebody who has been through the things I’ve been through, he shares his stories with him and Kobe and his experience in the Finals,” Reese said on Glenn Clark Radio Dec. 19. “We talk every day. He tells me he loves me and he wants the best for me and even if I were to never touch a basketball again, I’ll always have a job and I’ll always have somebody that’ll be in my corner.

“So understanding that somebody genuinely cares about me in the world beyond basketball and understanding what it takes and just having somebody like that has always really been great for me.”

The St. Frances Academy graduate began her college career at Maryland but transferred to LSU following the 2021-2022 season, which saw her earn first-team All-Big Ten and All-Defensive Team honors. Her star turn, however, took place in Baton Rouge, where she averaged 23 points and 15.4 rebounds per contest en route to first-team All-America honors.

Reese was at her best during the NCAA Tournament, averaging 21.3 points and 15.2 during the Tigers’ six wins and earning tournament Most Outstanding Player honors. That led to myriad opportunities in the new NIL landscape and a busy summer.

LSU’s title defense began with a 92-78 loss to Colorado on Nov. 6. Following the game, Mulkey said she was “disappointed and surprised in some individual players” regarding their toughness, fight and leadership. Three games later, Reese sat out the second half against Kent State and didn’t return until the Tigers’ Nov. 30 game against Virginia Tech. She has played at a high level since coming back.

“Your mental space is more important than anything else, so just being able to be strong, writing things down, having a journal, but also having the supportive people around you has been something that I’ve loved and leaned on,” Reese said.

Next on the schedule for LSU is Coppin State, which is expecting a packed house for Reese’s homecoming. (It’s the second time she has played at Coppin during her college career.) She said she was planning on taking her teammates to “Angel Reese Court” at Scotts Branch Activity Center in Randallstown. The renovated court was dedicated in her honor this summer.

Reese is thrilled to be back in town one more time as a college hoops star.

“Just being able to do everything that I’ve done has been an honest blessing, but I wouldn’t be who I am without Baltimore,” Reese said. “They support me so much and have been my rock through everything, so being able to come back was important, especially as a senior. Being able to go through all my college years and actually come home and play in front of everyone is going to be great, so I’m super excited.”