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The Scholarly Spotlight: Women’s Basketball LSU Tigers

The Women's LSU Basketball program has captivated the masses of the sports world over the past couple of years. In 2021, LSU hired Legendary Head Coach Kim Mulkey after she decided to leave Baylor after a 21-year tenure. While at Baylor she won multiple coach of the year awards, and had multiple Final Four appearances. Her record as a head coach in the SEC is 60-9 and 692-112 overall resulting in a .870 win percentage. The Bears won the Big 12 Tournament her last season as head coach, and then she signed to LSU during the summer. After signing Kim, it was time to acquire the talent.

During the 2022 collegiate offseason Maryland-Forward, Angel Reese announced she was entering the transfer portal. After two years with the Terrapins, she decided to join the LSU Tigers and play under Coach Mulkey. The team was good the previous season, finishing with a record of 26-6 during the 2021-2022 season, but needed more star power to get over the hump. After adding Angel the program showed instant improvement.  

During her first season at the University, she made an impact immediately. Mulkey did a good job implementing Reese into the Tigers’ system. Her stats for the first year were 23 PPG, 15 RPG, 1.8 SPG, and 1.6 BPG for the season. During the NCAA season, they were ranked #2 in the SEC under South Carolina with a record of 34-2. At the end of the season, they accomplished their ultimate goal of winning the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship by defeating Iowa 102-85. A big part of the success is the undeniable chemistry between Angel and Flau’jae Johnson.

Flau’jae is a 5’10 Sophomore guard with great slashing ability, and a good rebounder for her position. She is also a threat on the perimeter with her ability to intercept passes. Last season she averaged 11.0 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.9 APG, and 1.2 STL. She is bound to improve under the guidance of Coach Mulkey. Johnson also has a promising rap career off the court where she has multiple music videos with over 100,000 views on each of them. Flau’jae and Angel developed a tight bond in the short time they’ve played together. Fans have caught them out shopping together, they’ve done radio interviews, and they attended the 2022 ESPYS together.

After winning the Championship, the program gained extreme notoriety throughout the summer. It put Reese and Johnson in the spotlight as both were in TV commercials and signed lucrative NIL deals. Johnson signed 3 NIL deals with fast food chain Raising Caines, Campus Ink, and Lebron James’s athlete empowerment brand ‘Uninterrupted.’

 Reese signed a Reebok deal because she was interested in what they had to offer. President Of Basketball for Reebok, Shaquille O’Neal, personally sought her out to be part of the company and she was honored.  “There is no one making a bigger impact on the game right now than Angel Reese,” said O’Neal.

All of the attention on the University has attracted attention some of the best women’s collegiate basketball players. Hailey Van Lith was the centerpiece of the Louisville Cardinals Women's basketball program for the last three years. She averaged 11PPG, 2.1 APG, and 5.2 RPG her first year and improved every season. During her Junior year, her numbers were 19.7 PPG, 3.2 APG, 4.5 RPG, and 1.5 SPG. During the 2022-2023 season, the Cardinals had an underwhelming season compared to the two years prior, and this enticed her to want a change of scenery. On April 27th, 2023, she announced she was entering the transfer portal, and LSU would be her destination. 

She is a score-first point guard, and her offensive prowess forces defenses to respect her wherever she is on the court. Lith provides even more spacing for Reese and Johnson because all three girls can score 20+ on any night.

The coaches and trainers are also excited for the Underclassmen the scouts recruited this past summer. The Freshman class is headlined by The #1 ranked high school player in the nation, Mikaylah Williams, a 6’0 guard from Louisiana. Her fans who witnessed her in High School are excited to watch her on the next level.  

 Williams played at Parkway High School. During her senior year, She averaged 22.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 3.7 APG, and 2.2 STLS.  She led her team to a state championship, but the team lost the game. Williams is special because of her prowess on both ends of the ball. Mentally, she is ahead of her peers in terms of defensive awareness. Her scoring ability is natural, and she can shoot it from anywhere. 

She has incredible accolades for such a young age. When Team USA went to Hungary, she became a two-time gold medalist after competing in the FIBAU17 tournament. Mikaylah also won the MVP of the FIBAU18 in the 3X3 Tournament. She has so much experience playing on the world stage already ,and Coach Mulkey will only build on her potential. 

The LSU scouts recruited two other notable high school players from Nashville, Tennessee. Point Guard Angelica Velez ,and Forward Aalayah Del Rosario. Both will provide Mulkey great depth for her bench ,and their skill sets will fit right into the Tigers’ system. 

Velez is an athletic guard who specializes in 1-on-1 isolation plays. She is good at surveying the defense before she makes her passes and does a good job distributing in traffic. She will aggravate her opponents with her defense because of her aggressiveness.  Angelica will be a spark plug off the bench with the energy she will bring on both ends.

Aalayah Del Rosario was considered one of the best post-scorers in women’s High School basketball. She was ranked #4 in the nation while playing at Webb High School alongside Angelica Velez. The duo led ‘The Webb Feet’ to two state championships back-to-back. Her numbers for the season were 16.3 PPG and 11.5 RPG. Rosario has excellent reaction time with her hands ,which helps her get blocks and a smooth touch around the rim. She possesses good interior defense, and even though she is 6’6, Rosario can run the floor like a guard with her amazing footwork.

The freshman will provide Mulkey with more depth for her bench unit. Their skillsets fit right into the Tigers’ system ,and it will be interesting to see all three freshman develop under Mulkey’s coaching. They all have so much potential, and ensure the University’s success for the next few seasons.

On November 6th, they experienced some early-season adversity in their opener against the 21st ranked Colorado Buffaloes. Last season, Colorado had a 25-9 record under Head Coach JR Payne, and now they begin their new season this year with a win over the reigning champions. Senior Buffaloes Guard Frida Formann scored 27 points, five rebounds, and six assists. She shot an incredible 7 for 11 from 3-point range. Junior Buffaloes Center Aaronette Vonleh Contributed 24 points, four assists, and six rebounds. Senior Buffaloes Guard Jaylnn Sherodd Put up 19 points, eight rebounds, and six Assists. 

They defeated the Tigers with a final score of 92-78. This result was a massive upset in the college basketball realm. Angel scored 15 points while shooting 6-15 and grabbed 12 rebounds. Hailey scored 14 points while shooting 4-11 and got seven assists. Flau’jae had 3 points after shooting 1-3 during the game. During the post-game press conference, Coach Mulkey addressed the loss “You are playing this game and coaching this game you aregoing to lose games.” she said, “ Losing hurts, but what hurts me more is what I witnessed out there on the floor...Effort, Energy, Fight, Heart who are yall?”

In the next game, they got a bounce-back win over Queens Royals with a final score of 112-55. The next few games on their schedule are unranked schools MS Valley, Kent State, SLU, Texas Southern, and Niagara twice. Their next ranked opponent is the #8 ranked Virginia Tech, and while all D1 schools provide good competition, VT is another level. The sports world will witness how they deal with the pressure since every team will want to beat the defending champions. 

 According to multiple betting websites, The Tigers are still the favorites to win the 2024 championship. Their talent is undeniable ,and becoming the reigning champions put them on every team's radar. This year will be vital for Angel and Hailey's draft stocks as they’re both entering their fourth year of college. It’ll be fun to see how the team grows together throughout the season as they try to defend their title. 


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