Hailey Van Lith doesn’t taking trash talk personally. Rather, she appreciates it, especially as one of the perfectors of the art form.
And she would like to see that appreciation from a wider audience, pointing out the difference in standards for women’s basketball stars compared to, say, Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler, who earlier in the NBA playoffs declared himself the best player in the world.
“When a woman does it don’t come at us sideways,” Van Lith told Bleacher Report’s Taylor Rooks.
A three-year star at Louisville, the 21-year-old is joining national champion LSU for the upcoming season. She helped the U.S. women’s team to the 2023 FIBA 3×3 World Cup title earlier this month. And she counts her trash-talking among her many on-court talents.
“I think it’s one of my strong skill sets,” she joked with Rooks. “If you’re going to list pros and cons, the No. 1 pro of Hailey Van Lith is trash-talking.”
For Van Lith, though, the conversation around trash-talking runs deeper. She pointed to her new teammate Angel Reese as a “great vehicle” for bringing energy to the women’s game, saying that she “can’t wait to support her and back her.” She even awards Reese the “trash-talking crown” for LSU, pointing to her bravado and her bravery.
“I think the game is going to change when women feel comfortable in their sport, in their arena to actually say how they feel about themselves and not always feel like, ‘Oh being confident is unladylike. Talking trash is unladylike,’” she said. “No. All these things are a part of sports, and it’s what people love about sports.”
For Van Lith, the best trash talk doesn’t have to be loud.
“I feel like it’s much more intimidating, if I can just look you dead in your eye and tell you that I just gave you a bucket without screaming, you’re going to take that personally,” she said. “That’s my strength.”
Van Lith isn’t afraid to talk the talk on the court because she’s truly confident in her game, she said. And she’s excited to see players’ confidence grow as the game grows.
“There’s room for everyone at the table, and I just feel like now that we’re in a place where young girls in college — it’s like there’s always been the older WNBA players who have kind of pushed the boundaries, but now there’s this avenue for these young college players to really express themselves and and show self-confidence,” she said. “I think we’re going to see another level of reach in women’s basketball and women’s sports in general as this comes to life.”
Part of that level of reach has come as stars such as Reese and Iowa’s Caitlin Clark have come onto the scene. After LSU won national championship, she contacted Reese right away “because I just loved her energy,” she said. The two remained in contact after that, which is part of what led Van Lith to the Tigers.
“She just seems like the type of girl that wants other people around her to do well and see them win and that’s what I respect and love about her,” Van Lith said.
The former Louisville star’s commitment to LSU was followed by Aneesah Morrow, another star transfer, which has fueled chatter about the Tigers’ chances to win back-to-back titles. The team will also have to balance playing styles and personalities, but Van Lith isn’t worried.
“When you have the same goals – and that’s to be the best that we can be as a team – that’s not going to matter,” she said. “I’m with a bunch of girls that have that same goal and I don’t think we’re going to have issues on that front because we all just want to see the team do well.”
The vibes would work well for a reality television show following LSU as it navigates the NCAA season, she said.
“But I also see a little bit of a glimpse of a mini pro team. We have so many WNBA prospects and I really am excited because I think it’s going to give me a taste of what the league is like and playing on a team with such great players around me,” she said. “I’m very confident in what I bring to the table but also I think it’s going to help me, it’s gonna make me so much better for the next stage of my life which is the WNBA.”
As for a possible rematch with Clark and the Hawkeyes, Van Lith isn’t fazed by their most recent meeting, even after Clark made John Cena’s famous “you can’t see me” gesture in her team’s Elite Eight win against Louisville.
“It was actually hilarious because right after the game I texted her and I was like, ‘The media is dumb. I’m sorry. They just make stuff up and they just put it all over the Internet and everyone thinks it’s true,’” she said of the incident. “We were laughing about it because she did it to her strength coach. She didn’t do it to anyone on our team, especially me.
“I didn’t even see it in the game,” Van Lith continued. “It’s just funny how camera angles and perceptions are skewed through the media. It was hilarious, we laughed about it. I didn’t even know it happened until I saw it [all] over Instagram later.”