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Baltimore native Angel Reese is back with No. 7 LSU after 4-game absence

LSU women's star Angel Reese hands out backpacks, school supplies at Baltimore alma mater
LSU women's star Angel Reese hands out backpacks, school supplies at Baltimore alma mater 00:29

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — LSU star forward Angel Reese, who has missed four games for undisclosed reasons, is rejoining the No. 7 Tigers in advance of their match-up with ninth-ranked Virginia Tech on Thursday night.

The Baltimore native had foreshadowed her return when she posted on social media a photo of herself inside LSU's basketball stadium, the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

LSU coach Kim Milkey has declined to go into detail about why Reese was not with the team for much of the past two weeks beyond saying it stemmed from unspecified "locker-room issues."

Milkey said Wednesday that Reese will play but wouldn't say whether she would be starting or coming off the bench.

Reese, who is one of the most popular and commercially successful players in her sport, missed games at Southeastern Louisiana and against Texas Southern in Baton Rouge before also not accompanying the team to the Cayman Islands for a holiday tournament. LSU defeated Niagara and Virginia in the Cayman Islands Classic last weekend.

Reese also was benched for the second half of a victory over Kent State on Nov. 14.

The Tigers (7-1) won all of the games Reese missed, most of them by wide margins, and have not lost since dropping their opener in Las Vegas to then-No. 20 Colorado, which has since risen to No. 3.

Reese started LSU's first four games, averaging 17 points and 10.3 rebounds as the Tigers went 3-1.

Mulkey, a four-time national championship-winning and Hall of Fame coach, has defended her decision to hold back specifics about the nature of Reese's absence, saying it was an internal team matter about which the public didn't need to know.

Reese was LSU's on-court leader last season, when the Tigers won the program's maiden national title. LSU defeated Virginia Tech in the Final Four before knocking off Iowa in the championship game.

Since then, Reese has appeared in numerous national advertising campaigns and accumulated endorsement opportunities worth more than $1 million, including with Reebok.

Her popularity stems in part from her combination of feminine style and ferocious play. She is known as the "Bayou Barbie," in part because of her painted nails and eyelash extensions, and has expressed an interest in modeling.

Yet she is fiery on the court, staring down opponents after swatting away shots, diving on the floor for loose balls or celebrating with a short dance move after big baskets. She famously once blocked a shot with one hand while holding one of her shoes that had come loose in the other. She dominated a second-round NCAA Tournament game against Michigan last March with dried blood on her face and a fat lip with gauze under it after she'd been inadvertently struck in the mouth.

Last season, she averaged 23 points and 15.4 rebounds — and set an NCAA record with 34 double-doubles in a season.

But while her unfiltered public persona has made her a charismatic figure in women's basketball, it also has brought controversy.

Reese is known to say she is "unapologetically me," can accept being portrayed as "the bad guy" and doesn't back down from criticism that some of her actions rub fans and competitors the wrong way.

That happened at the end of last season's national championship game, when she gestured triumphantly at Hawkeyes star Caitlin Clark. And afterward, when she took issue on social media with first lady Jill Biden's suggestion that both LSU and Iowa be invited to the White House because their matchup was so enthralling.

Reese said she'd rather visit the family of former President Barack Obama but wound up attending LSU's celebration with President Joe Biden and the first lady.

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