Angel Reese’s WNBA Mock Draft Snub And Curious Absence From LSU Point To The Other Side Of NIL Fame And Fortune

LSU’s Angel Reese is back with the team and seemingly focused on basketball again. But the reigning NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player now has a potential WNBA Draft snub to deal with. In a WNBA mock draft on ESPN, the “Bayou Barbie” was projected to be selected eighth overall. A snub to some, certainly to Reese. The last nine months have been a whirlwind and possibly gives a glimpse into the other side of fame and fortune.

“That was an insult to her. We talked about the things she needs to work on. Whether she gets picked higher than that or not, it still motivates her. She gets motivated in practice with someone going head to head with her or talking trash back at her. She’s a competitor,” LSU head coach Kim Mulkey said when the mock draft debuted.

Reese, along with Iowa’s Caitlin Clark, are the faces of women’s college basketball. They’re arguably the best two players in the country and have accolades and awards to back that up.

Reese Is The Face Of Women’s College Basketball

In Reese’s case she’s also popular outside of the sport in mainstream pop culture. She ranks No. 7 nationally in NIL ranking valuation, according to On3. That’s across all sports, men and women. She is the No. 1 women’s college basketball player by NIL ranking valuation.

She’s friends with world famous rapper Lil’ Wayne and has deals with Amazon, Bose, Coach, Discord, Outback Steakhouse, Sonic, TurboTax, Wingstop and Xfinity. Reese also has a deal with Reebok and counts new company president of basketball Shaquille O’Neal as a mentor and close friend.

In July she launched the Angel C. Reese Foundation, which aims to empower girls through sports, education and financial literacy. Reese is a 21-year-old college senior.

What were you doing at 21? This seems like a lot for a young woman who is still learning who she is as a person and working to improve on the court as a player.

Reese was benched in the second half of LSU’s fourth game of the season and in the following game she was a healthy scratch and remained “away from the team” for four games in what Mulkey described as an “internal matter.” All sorts of speculation ran rampant. Was Reese sporting a less than stellar GPA, which kept her ineligible? Was she suspended for violating team rules?

Mulkey did not help the situation by refusing to shed light on the matter. Only saying she will always “protect her players.”

Too Much Too Soon?

Upon Reese’s return she did not address specifically what kept her away but made some illuminating comments.

“My mental health is the most important thing before anything, and I’m gonna make sure I’m OK before anything because I don’t wanna cause any harm or any cancer within the locker room, so being able to take a reset to myself — like I said before, I am human,” Reese said following her first game back on Nov. 30. “I’m not just an athlete, and that’s OK to do. Pros do it all the time.”

“I talked to Shaq every day, Reese continued. “We FaceTime every day. He checked on me, called me every single day to make sure I was good. He told me every day, ‘This too shall pass. This too shall pass. This too shall pass.’ He’s been here before. He knows what it takes. Just being able to have somebody like that was something that was good for me.

“He told me when I was right, told me what I was wrong, told me what I needed to do to get back to where I am. I know he’s probably going to call me after the game if he hasn’t already,” she added.

Reading between the lines of Reese’s comments, maybe fame and fortune came too fast for her. Her NIL valuation is $1.7 million. That’s a lot of money for most people, let alone a 21-year-old.

She didn’t want to “cause any harm or cancer in the locker room.” That’s a strong statement. Was that already happening and she stepped away? Was she told to step away? In what areas did Shaq say she was “wrong”?

In a multibillion collegiate sports enterprise as currently constructed, players should get paid based on their value and worth to the program. ESPN pays the NCAA top dollar to broadcast the women’s college basketball tournament.

An independent NCAA study showed that the rights for the women’s tournament could be worth up to $112 million alone by 2025.

The players are the draw, they should be compensated based on their contribution to that value.

But balancing brand responsibilities that come with NIL deals, fame, money, and D1 basketball is a lot. Not to mention that pesky thing called academics the NCAA loves to shove down our throats with its farcical “student athlete” description.

If this was indeed too much for Reese and it possibly went to her head or she had a negative moment, this is a warning. The introduction of NIL deals was the right thing to do but there will be unintended and possibly adverse consequences.

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