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Angel Reese, the Most Outstanding Player of the 2023 Women’s NCAA Tournament was away from the team during the early portion of the regular season.
“Angel was not in uniform. Angel is a part of this basketball team, and we hope to see her sooner than later,” LSU coach Kim Mulkey said after a game in mid-November.
Reese’s absence came just days after she was benched in the second half of a game against Kent State. At the time, Mulkey described Reese’s benching as a “coach’s decision.”
Reese eventually returned to the court in early December for a game against Virginia Tech. Shortly after, she took to social media and appeared to indirectly respond to the various rumors surrounding what was ultimately a four-game absence.
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Angel Reese of the LSU Lady Tigers handles the ball against the Iowa Hawkeyes during the 2023 NCAA Tournament national championship at American Airlines Center April 2, 2023, in Dallas, Texas. (C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
“Just make sure that apology is as loud as the disrespect,” Reese wrote in a social media post.
Shortly after the Tigers’ matchup with the Hokies, Reese spoke about the importance of hitting the pause button from time to time.
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“Taking time to yourself is really important. I feel like that’s just something that was important in resetting and refocusing within the team. I’m just happy to be back.”
The details surrounding Reese’s absence largely remain a mystery, but on Thursday the star revealed that her “break” was a “mutual decision” she made with Mulkey.
LSU Lady Tigers head coach Kim Mulkey hugs LSU forward Angel Reese for her 1000th rebound before a game against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge Nov. 30, 2023. (Matthew Hinton/USA Today Sports)
Reese did note that NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, who she has described as a mentor and father figure, advised her to limit her social media presence during her time away.
“One thing I always remember he said is, I have the world at my (fingertips). I could post right now on Instagram that I bought a million-dollar home, and people are going to believe it because that’s how social media works,” Reese told USA Today. “So, when all of that was happening, he was coaching me up.”
Reese likely took notice of the seemingly endless rumors connected to her absence. But O’Neal encouraged the 21-year-old to focus on grounding herself by surrounding herself with people who know her character.
LSU forward Angel Reese (10) reacts to a call during the first half of a game Nov. 12, 2023, in Baton Rouge. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
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Since her return, Reese has continued to show why she is one of the best college basketball players in the nation. The star forward is averaging 19.9 points and 12.1 rebounds per game.
The defending national champion LSU Tigers are 18-2. LSU hosts the undefeated and top-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks Thursday night.
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