When Angel Reese decided to transfer from Maryland to LSU before last season, she changed the trajectory of LSU women’s basketball. After leading the Tigers to their first NCAA Championship last month, Reese has helped put LSU on the map as the premier destination for transfers.
Coming off the 2023 NCAA title, LSU is the favorite to repeat next year thanks to the additions of top transfers Aneesah Morrow from DePaul and Hailey Van Lith from Louisville.
“It’s lit,” Reese told Just Women’s Sports from Overtime’s Takeover event on Saturday, the day after Morrow revealed her decision. “They say we are building a superteam, so I’m excited.”
A year ago, when Reese was looking for her new home, she visited LSU and promptly canceled planned trips to Tennessee and South Carolina after finding the perfect fit with head coach Kim Mulkey and the school.
This offseason, when Van Lith entered the transfer portal, no other school even emerged as a candidate for the graduate student before she became a Tiger. Morrow’s transfer process was full of fanfare as she posted updates on social media and announced her decision in an NIL-sponsored video. Morrow, the fourth-leading scorer in the nation last season, selected LSU over South Carolina and USC.
pic.twitter.com/wp5Xk3whpQ— Angel Reese (@Reese10Angel) May 5, 2023
There’s something about LSU — or a collection of somethings, according to Reese — that instantly wins over prospective transfers.
One of those things is Mulkey, with whom Reese quickly developed a close relationship. The Final Four MVP sings her coach’s praises at every opportunity. Van Lith shares a similar bond with Mulkey, having nearly committed to play for her at Baylor a few years ago. Even though she chose Louisville out of high school, she maintained a relationship with Mulkey.
“Coach Mulkey and I have had a great relationship since I was in high school,” Van Lith said when she signed with the Tigers. “I am extremely excited and honored to have an opportunity to play for her. She will help elevate my game and push me to be successful at the next level.”
Van Lith fills a key role on LSU’s roster after Alexis Morris graduated and moved on to the WNBA. LSU needs a point guard who can provide another scoring threat alongside the team’s potent post duo of Reese and Morrow. Van Lith is a skilled attacker who dominates the midrange, which should help LSU open up space in the paint. That’s also how Morris did a lot of her damage for the Tigers last season, and especially during the NCAA Tournament.
Van Lith’s competitive spirit is well-known. After three seasons with Louisville, one of which resulted in a Final Four, the guard has yet to win a title. LSU gives her the opportunity to do so.
eleven pic.twitter.com/GIRiJUgT8r— HVL (@haileyvanlith) April 27, 2023
That was a key piece in Morrow’s decision as well. The former DePaul star averaged 25.7 points and 12.2 rebounds last season, but told ESPN last week that she felt she had “nothing to show for it” because the Blue Demons weren’t able to secure conference titles and appeared in only one NCAA Tournament during her tenure.
Now, Morrow will play alongside other established stars and be a part of what should be the most dominant frontcourt duo in the country with Reese.
Morrow also wanted a school that would help her become a more well-rounded player and person off the court. She’s particularly interested in growing as a businesswoman and entrepreneur. Once again, in the NIL landscape, LSU is at the forefront.
Reese is the perfect example. She expressed interest in modeling, and on Monday was featured in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition, just one of many off-court deals and accomplishments she’s seen come to fruition at LSU.
Reese and LSU teammate Flau’jae Johnson, who both helped mentor some of the top girls’ high school players in the country at the Overtime Takeover event this past weekend, led the men’s and women’s Final Four field in social media following. Reese, 21, also led all March Madness athletes in NIL merchandise sales.
“When I came to LSU, I had 70k followers and now I have going on 2 (million),” Reese said of her social media platforms. “(LSU) embraces it, and coach Mulkey lets you be who you are. On the court, she makes sure you come into practice and handle your business, but outside she doesn’t make you sit in a box and be one thing.”
Reese’s newest trophy-seeking teammates are ready for that, too.
“The chip is on our shoulder, for sure,” Reese said. “Everyone is going to be coming at us, just like last year, but that makes the game fun.”
Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.