Angel Reese, injured in loss to Iowa, details unhappiness while at LSU

LSU Tigers forward Angel Reese (C) totaled 17 points and 20 rebounds in an Elite Eight loss to Iowa on Monday in Albany, N.Y. File Photo by Ian Halperin/UPI

April 2 (UPI) -- Angel Reese brushed tears off her cheeks throughout a postgame news conference after LSU's Elite Eight loss to Iowa. The All-American forward went on to detail why she hasn't been happy since the Tigers' 2023 title run.

Reese totaled 17 points and 20 rebounds in the 94-87 setback to the Hawkeyes on Monday in Albany, N.Y. The Most Outstanding Player from the 2023 NCAA Division I women's basketball tournament, who could be an early pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft, did not say if it was her last collegiate game.

Reese, a three-time All-American, was a lightning rod for social media attention over the last year. Known as the "Bayou Barbie," the Tigers' top player was able to cash in on the notoriety as one of the top-earning college athletes through name, image and likeness (NIL) deals.

But with that fame, she said, also came targeted negativity.

"I don't really get to speak out on things just because I try to ignore," Reese told reporters. "I just try to stand strong. I've been through so much. I've seen so much. I've been attacked so many times [with] 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. I just want them to always just know I'm still a human.

"All this has happened since I won the national championship. I said the other day, I haven't been happy since then."

Reese, who said she rolled an ankle in the second quarter of Monday's setback, previously cited her mental health as a reason for her four-game absence earlier this season.

She said she doesn't plan to change her personality.

Two of her teammates, Flau'Jae Johnson and Hailey Van Lith, jumped to her defense during the news conference.

"Everybody can have their opinion on Angel Reese, but y'all don't know her," Johnson said. "Y'all don't know Angel Reese. I know Angel Reese. I know the real Angel Reese, and the person I see every day is a strong person, and is a caring, loving person.

"But the crown she wears is heavy. She's the type of teammate that's going to make you believe in yourself."

Johnson, a sophomore, credited Reese in helping her to build confidence. She also aimed comments at the "media." Tigers coach Kim Mulkey was critical of media outlets throughout the season and tournament, including recent comments about a Washington Post profile. The article detailed a brash coaching style, proven to be divisive throughout her coaching tenure.

Another recent column in the Los Angeles Times, which painted more negative light on the Tigers as "basketball villains" and "dirty debutantes," led to an apology from its author.

"The media, y'all how they like to twist and call it a 'villain' and all that," Johnson said. "Y'all don't know Angel. I'm just happy that I get to play with her. I get to be around her presence. Her energy is different. She makes me a better player, and that's what great players do."

Van Lith called Reese "one of the toughest people" she has ever been around.

"People speak hate into her life," Van Lith said. "I've never seen people wish bad things on someone as much as her. It does not affect her. She comes to practice every day. She lives her life every day and lives how she wants to live. She doesn't let anybody change that. That's the key to life.

"Y'all do not get to her. Let me say it again; Y'all do not get to Angel Reese, so you might want to give it up. Throw the towel in because you are wasting your energy."

Mulkey told reporters that she thought the defense of Reese from her teammates was "heartwarming."

"I thought it was touching," Mulkey said. "They are young people on social media. That is their teammate. It sounded to me like they wanted to get that off their chests."