LSU forward Angel Reese (10) celebrates a three-point basket by LSU guard Mikaylah Williams, right, during the first half of an NCAA basketball game against Valley State of Mississippi, Sunday, November 12, 2023 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (AP Photo/Matthieu Hinton)
GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands (AP) — LSU star Angel Reese was not seen with the seventh-ranked and defending national champion Tigers at the Cayman Islands Classic basketball tournament.
The Associated Press observed players, coaches and support staff walking from their charter flight to a bus at the airport in George Town, Grand Cayman, after landing Wednesday.
Asked about Reese’s absence in the Cayman Islands, LSU women’s basketball spokesman Grant Kauvar said the university deferred to coach Kim Mulkey on matters involving forward All -America 2022-23.
LSU won’t play in the tournament until it faces Niagara on Friday. LSU is also scheduled to face Virginia on Saturday.
Reese, who is one of the most popular and commercially successful players in her sport, missed LSU’s previous two games against Texas Southern on Monday and against Southeast Louisiana last Friday for undisclosed reasons. She was also benched for the second half of a win against Kent State on November 14.
And while her teammates were traveling on Wednesday, Reese posted a video of herself on social media in which she looked into the camera while an audio clip of Deion Sanders said, “What about me?” Who would make you think I care about your opinion of me?”
The Tigers (5-1) won the games Reese missed by wide margins and haven’t lost since losing their first game in Las Vegas to then-No. 20 Colorado, which has since risen to #3.
Mulkey, a four-time national championship winner and Hall of Fame coach, declined to go into detail about why Reese hasn’t been with the team lately.
“You always have to deal with locker room issues,” Mulkey said after LSU beat Texas Southern 106-47.
“Sometimes you know them all. Sometimes no. Sometimes you want to know more than you’re entitled to,” Mulkey said. “I will protect my players – always. They are like family.
Mulkey and LSU players said they hope the trip to the Cayman Islands will foster bonding between the teams.
“We can go somewhere cool. LSU takes care of us very well. We’re very lucky,” goalie Hailey Van Lith said earlier this week. “It’s really a time where we can bond as a team and have fun and go to the beach, but also play basketball and get things done.”
Mulkey said some players and coaches have family members traveling to the islands to watch the games and they will celebrate Thanksgiving together.
“We’re going to do some fun things and we’re going to try to win two games,” Mulkey said.
Since last season, when Reese led LSU to a national title, she has appeared in numerous national ad campaigns and racked up sponsorship opportunities worth more than $1 million, including with Reebok.
Her popularity comes in part from her combination of feminine style and fierce play. She is known as “Bayou Barbie”, partly because of her painted nails and eyelash extensions, and has expressed an interest in modeling.
Still, she’s feisty on the court, glaring at opponents after knocking away a shot, diving on the floor to recover loose balls or celebrating with a short dance move after big baskets. She once blocked a shot with one hand while holding one of her shoes that had come off with the other. She dominated an NCAA Tournament second-round game against Michigan last March with dried blood on her face and a fat lip covered in gauze after being inadvertently punched in the mouth.
Last season, she averaged 23 points and 15.4 rebounds – and set an NCAA record with 34 double-doubles in a season.
But while her unfiltered public persona has made her a charismatic figure in women’s basketball, it has also sparked controversy.
Reese is known for saying that she is “unapologetically me”, can accept being portrayed as “the bad guy” and doesn’t back down from criticism that some of her actions offend fans and competitors in the wrong way.
It happened at the end of last season’s national championship game against Iowa, when she gestured triumphantly toward Hawkeyes star Caitlin Clark. And then when she took issue on social media with first lady Jill Biden’s suggestion that LSU and Iowa be invited to the White House because their matchup was so exciting.
Reese said she preferred to visit former President Barack Obama’s family, but ended up attending LSU’s celebration with President Joe Biden and the first lady.
“I understand I’m going to be the bad guy, but I know I’ll grow women’s basketball and I know I’m positive and I know I’ve inspired people,” Reese said shortly before this season. . “People can think what they think.”
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