Sky’s Angel Reese excited to help boost WNBA’s star power

Sky’s Angel Reese excited to help boost WNBA’s star power

CHICAGO — After attending the Met Gala and playing in a preseason game on back-to-back nights this week, Chicago Sky rookie forward Angel Reese is excited to bring her celebrity and talent to the WNBA.

Reese, the No. 7 pick in last month’s WNBA draft out of LSU, rubbed shoulders with A-list stars in New York City on Monday, her 22nd birthday. She then traveled back to Chicago on a private plane and scored 13 points in 19 minutes in Tuesday’s 101-53 preseason victory over the New York Liberty — played before only the Sky’s season-ticket holders and several prominent athletes, including new Chicago Bears quarterback Caleb Williams.

“I took my matchup seriously, I watched film when I was on the plane and I didn’t take anything off,” Reese said Wednesday during the team’s media day. “I wanted to get back. People at the Met Gala were like, ‘Are you partying after this?’ I’m like, ‘No, I’ve got a game tomorrow. I got to watch film.’ I prioritize everything. I’m still in school as well, so I’ve got a busy schedule — a lot going on — but like I said, you’ve got to maximize your 24 hours.”

Reese recognizes her own profile and those of other WNBA rookies, including the Indiana Fever’s Caitlin Clark and Sky teammate Kamilla Cardoso, will create more buzz at games this season.

“The who’s who are going to be courtside,” Reese said. “I was at the Met Gala, and Usher’s going to try to come up to a game in Vegas and Cardi B. I know some people that y’all might not think I know.”

Reese expects big crowds for both home and away games as interest grows around the sport. She also praised the WNBA’s decision this week to begin funding full-time charter flight service for teams during the season.

“Games are going to be packed,” Reese said. “Standing-room only sometimes. We might get those. They just told us when I go back home to Washington, we’re playing where the Wizards play. So the change is happening and it’s not going to stop here. We’re in a great direction with the charter flights. Being able to have that, that’s a step in the right direction.

“The [collective bargaining agreement] stuff is about to happen within the next year, too, so just understanding the gravitation we have, everything is in our hands right now to control.”

Reese, who took a private plane to the Met Gala after getting permission from coach Teresa Weatherspoon to leave Monday’s practice, is having a dramatically different rookie experience from some of her veteran teammates. Sky center Elizabeth Williams, selected No. 4 overall in the 2015 draft, recalled sharing hotel rooms during her first few seasons in the league and taking commercial flights between games.

Williams said years of advocacy from the WNBPA and developments like name, image and likeness in the college game have led to some key improvements. She said players with large fan followings, like Reese, have “a spotlight on her that none of us have” and need added layers of protection when traveling.

“We’re finally seeing the benefits of the fact that Angel’s playing in a national championship game on ABC or ESPN,” Williams said. “All of that adds up. At the end of the day, this is what we want. I’m grateful to be a part of a league that sees that vision and sees that growth. Hopefully now that we’ve been screaming it from the rooftops, investors understand that and companies understand that.”

Reese called Chicago the “perfect place” to start her pro career and noted her connection with Weatherspoon, a Hall of Fame player and five-time WNBA All-Star who reminds Reese in ways of her coach at LSU, Kim Mulkey.

Weatherspoon praised Reese for “maximizing everything she’s earning” with both her celebrity status and basketball.

The Sky open the season May 15 at Dallas.

“When I was talking to teams during the draft process, I knew I wanted to come to Chicago immediately,” Reese said. “I felt understood, I felt loved. [Weatherspoon] didn’t know me, I didn’t know her, but we had a conversation on the phone where I felt like she was a mom. I knew I will always be good with her and she will always be there for me.”

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