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Caitlin Clark on Angel Reese’s ‘competitive fire’: ‘I admire her game’

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Angel Reese shoots the ball over Iowa guard Caitlin Clark during the 2023 NCAA championship game. (Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports)

Angel Reese and Caitlin Clark are sharing the spotlight as the Sporting News’ Athletes of the Year for 2023.

The honor caps off a banner year for both players, which included a run to the national championship game. Reese and the LSU Tigers won the title over Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes, but the Iowa guard swept the national player of the year awards.

Of course, much of the discussion after the championship game centered around Reese’s hand-waving “you can’t see me” gesture, which mimicked Clark’s own celebration from earlier in the tournament.

Reese also pointed to her ring finger. Men’s athletes have done so as well, including Joe Burrow after winning the College Football Playoff with LSU in 2020 and Aaron Donald after winning his first Super Bowl with the Los Angeles Rams in 2022. But Reese received widespread vitriol on social media.

“I don’t think I was really surprised, you see, because I had been criticized a lot during the year for a lot of things I did,” Reese told TSN. “Because I’m a trash talker. That’s what I do. And a lot of people aren’t really used to that. I think people don’t expect that from women in sports. If it was flipped, and it was a man, you know it wouldn’t have been talked about or said or anything.”

At the time, Clark came to the defense of Reese. She and Reese are cool, and she thought the LSU star shouldn’t have been criticized “at all.”

After all, they are both fierce competitors. And they respect one another (Reese even said in October that she “loves” Clark, who she’s competed against since AAU, and hopes they can be teammates in the future).

In Tuesday’s TSN article, Clark once again reiterated her respect for Reese and advocated for her competitive fire to spread throughout college basketball.

“I think Angel’s great. I think that’s why so many people tuned into to watch the game, because there were so many great players,” Clark told TSN. “Honestly, it wasn’t just me and Angel that were great on the court. Neither one of us would have been in the national championship game if it was that way. I had really great teammates. She had really great teammates – that really went off in the national championship game, and that’s why we struggled to guard them.

“I admire her game. I think it’s great for the game. That’s what you need. You need that competitive fire. And I hope that spreads not only from Iowa and LSU, but to many other teams. I hope it’s the same way with all those top teams, that people can continue to show emotion.”