For Angel Reese, Hailey Van Lith, a decision date approaches

On3 imageby:Matthew Brune04/02/24


“I’ll make a decision when I’m ready.”

That’s all Angel Reese had to say on the matter after LSU’s season-ending loss to Iowa in the Elite Eight. The question was straightforward: “Do you have any thoughts on your future plans in basketball?”

It may have seemed quick, but it was necessary. the entire women’s basketball world is waiting on her decision, and now that her season has ended, she has 48 hours to either declare for the WNBA Draft or announce her return to college. That puts her deadline at roughly 8:30 p.m. CT on Wednesday.

LSU guard Hailey Van Lith faces the same question with the same deadline. The two have talked about the pros vs. the cons of leaving and staying throughout the season, but now they are forced into making a decision. The two aren’t just quality basketball players, but brand ambassadors and two of the top seven in On3’s Women NIL Valuations.

After four years in college, both have a COVID year to return and they continue to weigh that decision.

“I’ve honestly learned that regardless [of my choice] I’m going to be able to make money staying or going,” Reese said on March 21. “Understanding that my brand has been built where I know I can take it past college. Like I have a brand outside of here where the deals are going to follow me if I leave or stay. And I’ve built that relationship with a lot of these brands. And I think that’s the difference. Like my Reebok deal, and I’m sure Hailey’s Adidas deal, that’s going to go on past college. Of course we may not have the same benefits of the same training rooms, the commercial flights and stuff like that. And I think that’s the con of everything, but you have to make a sacrifice.”

Hailey Van Lith Angel Reese LSU basketball

Reese and Van Lith are both acutely aware of the potential limitations of the WNBA and realize their stardoms have been catapulted by NIL in the college atmosphere, but for both there is still room to grow as basketball players and as women.

“You have to kind of look at what type of player you are,” Van Lith said before the NCAA Tournament. “There’s some people that have to capitalize in college because they’re not a pro-type player. They’re likability is going to stay in college. And I think for me, that’s not the case. I’m a pro-type player. The deals will follow, like Angel said. The one downfall is visibility. And the amount of times we play on ESPN and ABC and all these major television channels, that becomes a lot less when you go to the WNBA where it’s at right now. You’re not going to be in the media as much, but from a brand aspect, as long as you do what you need to do and keep up that part of your life, then brands, they’re going to follow you when you go to the league.”

Kim Mulkey stays out of it

The star power on LSU this year was outstanding as Reese and Van Lith were joined by star sophomore Flau’Jae Johnson, All-American Aneesah Morrow, and five-star freshman Mikaylah Williams, all while being lead by head coach Kim Mulkey — one of the most polarizing figures in sports.

For Mulkey, she talked earlier this season about refusing to put pressure on the seniors when it comes to their pending decisions. The ball is in the player’s court and it’s almost time to make a decision.

“I don’t know if i’ll have a conversation with them,” Mulkey said in late February. “Angel said when she came here she would stay two years and Hailey said she’d stay one. I’m not the type of coach to sit people down and tell them which agents to pick or talk them out of what they want to do. They know they have the COVID year to come back and they would be more than welcome, but I try to stay away from having any kind of influential conversation, particularly with Hailey and Angel because they made it perfectly clear when they came what they wanted to do.”

The clock is ticking and a decision could come sooner rather than later, but either way, Mulkey and her staff will continue to build another championship contender for 2025. Reese has already cemented her legacy, but could she want to run it back?

“What Angel Reese has done at LSU in two years, we really need to step back and go, ‘Wow,’” Mulkey said back in February. “She won a national championship last year, she’s a celebrity now. And then, to come back this year and get Player of the Year – she was an All-Defensive player, as well – she’s left her mark.

“Whether she comes back next year or not, that young lady has left her mark on LSU women’s basketball.”

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