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Angel Reese will leave LSU and enter WNBA draft

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Angel Reese will leave LSU and enter WNBA draft

LSU women’s basketball star Angel Reese declared for the WNBA draft in a Vogue magazine article. The three-time all-American shared her plans with the fashion outlet in March and the interview published Wednesday.

“I’ve done everything I wanted to in college,” Reese said. “I’ve won a national championship, I’ve gotten [Southeastern Conference] Player of the Year, I’ve been an all-American. My ultimate goal is to be a pro — and to be one of the greatest basketball players to play, ever. I feel like I’m ready.”

Reese spent two seasons at LSU, where she led the program to its first championship, defeating Iowa in last April’s final. Her college career ended Monday with a loss to the Hawkeyes in this year’s Elite Eight.

The Baltimore native played her first two seasons at Maryland, where she was the highest-rated recruit in program history and earned all-American honors after her sophomore season. In 2022, she transferred to LSU, where her celebrity transcended college basketball.

Fans dubbed Reese “Bayou Barbie,” a nod to her on-court style and fashion sense. She quickly became one of the highest-earning athletes of the NIL (name, image, likeness) era, signing deals with Beats by Dre, Airbnb, Mercedes-Benz and Goldman Sachs, among others, and attracting more than 5 million followers between her TikTok and Instagram accounts.

Reese’s actions went viral after last year’s championship game, during which she pointed to her ring finger and made professional wrestler John Cena’s “you can’t see me” gesture toward Iowa star Caitlin Clark in the closing moments. Her taunts sparked a firestorm online, and she subsequently defended her actions, noting Clark had made similar gestures toward opponents in preceding games.

After winning the 2023 title, Reese was portrayed on “Saturday Night Live,” featured in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and made a cameo in the music video for Cardi B and Lotto’s song “Put It on Da Floor Again.”

“Of course, I like to do everything big. I didn’t want anything to be basic,” the 21-year-old told Vogue, adding that her choice to announce her draft intentions to the publication was inspired by tennis legend Serena Williams’s decision to announce her retirement in a 2022 issue of the magazine.

LSU entered this season with high expectations with Reese returning and after reloading in the transfer portal. But the team was upset in its season opener against Colorado.

LSU Coach Kim Mulkey benched Reese midway through a Nov. 14 game against Kent State for undisclosed reasons that she would later describe as “locker room issues.” Reese rejoined the team after four games and led the Tigers past No. 9 Virginia Tech. After the game, she told reporters: “Taking time to yourself is really important. I just felt like that was something that was important, resetting and refocusing within the team. I’m just happy to be back and this place was amazing tonight. I’m just happy to be here with them.”

Reese averaged a double-double and garnered Associated Press all-American honors each of the last three seasons. The 6-foot-3 forward scored a team-leading 18.6 points per game this season, and her 13.4 rebounds per game are second in the nation. Her 17-point, 20-rebound performance in Monday’s loss to Iowa was her 27th double-double this season.

Following the loss, Reese and Clark high-fived each other and shared a brief hug. In postgame comments, Reese told reporters: “I’ve been through so much, I’ve seen so much, I’ve been attacked so many times. Death threats, I’ve been sexualized, I’ve been threatened, I’ve been so many things and I’ve stood strong every single time. I just try to stand strong for my teammates because I don’t want them to see me down and not be there for them.”

Reese joins Clark, Stanford’s Cameron Brink, Tennessee’s Rickea Jackson and South Carolina’s Kamilla Cardoso among the top players in the April 15 draft. She is a projected top-10 pick.

“I’ll be working with women that have kids, women that have a family to feed,” Reese said of the WNBA. “I’m going to have to work my butt off every single day and grind. And who wouldn’t want that? I don’t want anything in my life to be easy.

“I want to start at the bottom again. I want to be a rookie again and build myself back up; I want to be knocked down and learn and grow at the next level.”

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