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Sheryl Swoopes: Angel Reese will face steep learning curve in WNBA

Angel Reese reacts during LSU's 2023 Final Four win against Virginia Tech. (Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports)

WNBA legend Sheryl Swoopes believes LSU star Angel Reese will face a steep learning curve in the WNBA.

Reese is among several top prospects for the 2024 WNBA Draft. But Swoopes knows that the jump from the college game is more difficult than some observes might think.

“She would be just another player in the WNBA the first few years,” she said recently on “Gil’s Arena” podcast with Gilbert Arenas, noting that she’s not “hating” on Reese but rather remaining realistic about what the league is like.

“I have no reason to hate,” she said. “Like I told somebody else, I’ve been there, done that. You’re trying to get to where I’ve been. The reason why I say that is because people are fighting for jobs and there aren’t a lot of spaces, not a lot of spots. People are fighting for jobs.

“So Angel Reese coming to the WNBA, it’s not going to be what people think it’s going to be her first couple of years in the W.”

That doesn’t mean Reese won’t play well. That’s not what Swoopes is saying.

Often, there is an adjustment period for college stars who make the leap to the professional level. It happened with Kelsey Plum and with Sabrina Ionescu. While both are finding their groove now (and competing against each other in the WNBA Finals), they did not achieve the same success they had in college during their first few seasons in the WNBA. Plum didn’t post a double-digit scoring average until her fourth season.

“There’s so many players that I could point to that that’s happened to when they came out,” Swoopes continued. “Sabrina left Oregon and when she graduated came to the WNBA, people were like, ‘Oh my gosh, she’s going to take the WNBA by storm.’”

Instead, Ionescu played just three games in her rookie season before going down with an injury. In 2021, she averaged 11.7 points while still battling with injuries. She’s started to come into her own, but it has taken a few years before Ionescu has begun to reach the level many expected of her.

“I don’t think people truly understand how good these women are,” Swoopes said. “Like, no you don’t just leave college and come to the W and do what you did in college. These are fully grown ass women who are good, right? And they’re like, ‘Oh oh no no no I can’t wait for you to get to the league.’”