When the upcoming season ends and the dust settles, Angel Reese will reach a crossroads.
Down one path, there’s the WNBA, its draft and the chance for Reese to continue her basketball career professionally. And down the other, there’s the extra year of college eligibility that the NCAA has granted to players who had seasons affected by the pandemic.
On Thursday, Reese left open the possibility of returning to LSU for a fifth year of college basketball. But for now, she said she’ll treat this season — her second in purple and gold — like it's her last.
"It'll come down to what is the best decision for me,” Reese said. “Coach (Kim) Mulkey knows what's best for me, and my mom is always my backbone. We'll see how we finish the season. If there's more to do, there's more to do. If not, there's a decision to make."
On the same day the WNBA announced its plan to add two expansion teams, Reese addressed the local media for the first time before the upcoming season. She discussed her past, present and future — what her life was like before the championship season, how it all changed after a whirlwind summer and what path she could choose after this season.
In an August interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Reese pushed the WNBA to expand. On Thursday, after hearing the that the league plans to add teams in San Francisco and potentially Portland, she said she was happy to see that vision become a reality.
“I’m super excited,” Reese said. “Being able to grow the game has always been important to me. I’m focusing on things that are here at LSU right now, and that’s the big thing for me, focusing on my senior year, so I’m just gonna give it my all this year.”
No matter what Reese decides, she’ll have a secure financial future.
Since LSU won the national championship in April, Reese blossomed into one of college sports’ highest-earning athletes. Her name, image and likeness (NIL) valuation is now $1.7 million, the seventh-highest figure among all college athletes — male or female — according to On3’s rankings.
Although the WNBA’s salaries lag far behind what Reese is currently earning, the money she’ll receive through endorsement deals won’t go away, whether she decides to enter the draft or not. Reese wants to pursue more branding opportunities in fashion and modeling, she said, mostly during basketball offseasons.
Although Iowa star Caitlin Clark trails Reese in NIL earning potential, the same could be said for her. She said Wednesday that she, too, was treating the upcoming season like it will be her last.
“It’s not something that I let weigh on me,” Clark said. “I’m focused on helping this team be the best team they can be, and when I know my decision, [the public] will know, too.”
The battle between Reese and Clark in last season’s national championship game attracted a record 9.9 million viewers.
The careers of Reese and Clark are intertwined because of their success on the court, their meeting in the championship game, and their potential to enter the WNBA at the same time and continue to push the game forward at the next level.
And at the end of the season, they’ll each have to make a decision. Whatever choice they make will send a ripple through the sport.
“I’m a senior, so I have to treat this year as my last year regardless of whatever decision I do make.”