As one of the biggest stars in college basketball, Angel Reese’s four-game absence could not be ignored. Speculation swirled around the LSU Tigers after Reese was benched by head coach Kim Mulkey who refused to give details about Reese for not suiting up for games.
But according to ESPN, Reese took time away from the court due to mental health concerns.
Speaking to news reporters following No. 7 ranked LSU's 82-64 victory over No. 9 Virginia Tech, the “Bayou Barbie” shed light on why she was missing in action.
“It was a long two weeks to be away from the team,” she continued.“Taking time for 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 went on to say that her absence was due to her placing a priority on her mental wellness.
“My mental health is the most important thing before anything, and I'm going to make sure I'm OK before anything because I don't want to cause anything, harm, or any cancer in the locker room," Reese said. "... I'm back and I'm happy and I'm here and I'm moving forward and I'm going to help take this team as far as I can."
During her hiatus, Reese revealed that her support system included her mother and Basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, perhaps LSU’s most famous sports alumnus.
“I talk to Shaq every day. He FaceTimes me every day. He checked on me. He called me every single day to make sure I was good. He told me every day this too shall pass,” Reese said.
“He’s been here before. He knows what it takes and just being able to have somebody like that was something that was really good for me,” she continued.“He told me when I was right. He told me when I was wrong. He told me what I needed to do to get back to where I needed to be and I know he’s gonna call me after the game, if he hasn’t already.”
Proving she hasn’t lost a step in her first game since the Tigers defeated Kent State in November, Reese posted 17 points and 9 rebounds.
While many criticized her for vague responses to questions about Reese’s absence, Mulkey expressed how excited she was to have her star player back.
“Angel is one of the best players I've coached," Mulkey said. "I'm just proud. I'm proud of how she handled herself. She's back to the Angel everybody knows."
In addition to her long-awaited return, the sold-out crowd at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge honored Reese for grabbing 1,000 total rebounds in her career. She received a standing applause from the Tigers fans as she walked to center court.
In a symbolic gesture of her accomplishment, Mulkey threw the ball up and Reese grabbed it out of the air.
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