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'I got put in the right place': Angel Reese, Sky are perfect fit

Julian Catalfo / theScore

Angel Reese knew exactly where she wanted to be heading into draft night.

The LSU standout says she felt "at home" and "understood" when she first spoke to Chicago Sky head coach Teresa Weatherspoon over the phone during the draft process.

That conversation stuck with the No. 7 pick in this year's WNBA draft and the "Bayou Barbie" couldn't be happier to begin her pro career in the Windy City.

"I say it all the time: I got put in the right place," Reese told reporters, including theScore, during the Sky's season launch media availability last week. "I think God puts you in the right places with the right people at the right time. So I wouldn't want to be nowhere else but Chicago."

Reese sees similarities between Weatherspoon and Kim Mulkey, her previous coach. The two Hall of Famers have a long history dating back to the mid-1980s, when Weatherspoon played college basketball at Louisiana Tech under Mulkey, who was an assistant at the time.

Reese describes Weatherspoon and Mulkey as motherly figures. She appreciates that they hold her accountable and treat her like every other player on the roster. The opportunity to learn from such established names in the early stages of her development hasn't been lost on Reese, either.

"They're gonna bring the best out of you every day," Reese said. "They come into practice with a lot of energy and they expect a lot out of you. You can't take a day off. I love coach Spoon and her being able to bring everything out of me, just how I had at LSU."

As important as it is to reach her potential, connecting on a personal level with her coach matters to Reese, as well.

"I don't feel like I can be coached by everybody. Just being able to have a coach that really believes in me, loves me, and doesn't want to change who I am is something that I'll always love," Reese said. "I know on the court, I'mma be good. But just being able to have somebody off the court that I know is always gonna have my back is also great, too."

David Dow / National Basketball Association / Getty

Weatherspoon and the Sky's front office are just as happy to have Reese in the organization. The 6-foot-3 forward is exactly the type of player the first-year head coach is looking to build a defensive identity around.

Reese was one of the premier defenders in college basketball, earning Big Ten All-Defensive team honors as a sophomore with Maryland and a pair of SEC All-Defensive team nods following her 2022 transfer to LSU. She was also a three-time semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.

Excluding an injury-shortened freshman season, Reese averaged 1.8 steals and 1.2 blocks across 101 appearances. The Baltimore native led the NCAA in defensive win shares (4.0) and ranked seventh in individual defensive rating (72.6) in 2022-23. With Reese anchoring LSU's defense, it finished each of the last two seasons in the top 25 in opponents' field-goal percentage.

It didn't take long for Reese to show the WNBA why she was such a disruptive force: The 22-year-old tallied four steals and a block in two preseason games. Her recent performance against the reigning WNBA finalist New York Liberty turned heads.

On one sequence, Reese switched seamlessly onto a guard and used her quick hands to strip the ball from her opponent, leading directly to a Chicago transition basket:

She made another impressive play in drop coverage, maximizing her length to deflect a Sabrina Ionescu pass. With fellow rookie Kamilla Cardoso (the No. 3 pick in this year's draft) sidelined, Reese spent some minutes at the five defending Jonquel Jones, even stopping the 2021 WNBA MVP in her tracks when she tried to power her way to the basket.

UConn icon Rebecca Lobo, now an ESPN color commentator, tuned into last week's clash and was pleasantly surprised with what she saw from Reese. Lobo played four WNBA seasons alongside Weatherspoon and believes Reese's demeanor meshes with the culture her former teammate is trying to establish.

"(Reese) has such a passion for the game and an incredible motor. So that's gonna fit perfectly with Weatherspoon and what she demands on the defensive end," Lobo told theScore on a conference call in early May. "The passion and intensity you saw from (Weatherspoon) on the court during games is the exact same passion and intensity she brought every single day to practice. You can just kind of see that those two are probably kindred spirits in that regard."

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

Reese says making an impact defensively fuels her offensive game.

Most of Reese's production comes around the basket via post-ups and putbacks. She's relentless on the offensive glass, often going up against multiple players in hopes of giving her team an extra possession.

Reese is excellent at gaining inside position and has the reach to snag boards behind her or over smaller players. Her activity and willingness to embrace contact gets the opposition into foul trouble, earning her frequent trips to the free-throw line.

From 2021-24, Reese placed either first or second in the country in offensive rebounds. She set a new NCAA single-season record with 34 double-doubles as a junior. The Sky need that rebounding energy after finishing ninth out of 12 teams in boards last season and losing three of their top four rebounders from last year in the offseason.

Indiana Fever phenom Caitlin Clark is ultrafamiliar with Reese's rebounding prowess. She saw it first when they dueled on the AAU circuit as teenagers, and it carried over to their memorable college battles.

"She's always just had a knack for (offensive rebounding)," Clark told theScore. "And it's not always something that you can teach. I think she just has a really good eye for the ball off the rim, can go get it, is aggressive, and wants it."

As dominant as Reese has been on the glass, there are questions about how successful she can be offensively at the next level.

Reese is undersized compared to most WNBA centers, and more bigs are extending their shooting range outside the paint. Reese, the reigning SEC Player of the Year, operated almost exclusively in the low post, going only 5-of-32 from deep over her entire collegiate career. She's been working diligently on improving her jumper, but it isn't a staple of her game yet.

In the meantime, Reese continued to play to her strengths during exhibition contests.

The All-American flashed the point-forward skills that made her the No. 1 wing coming out of high school, pushing the ball up the floor in transition when the opportunity presented itself and facilitating out of the high post.

Reese's size wasn't an issue against the taller Jones and Breanna Stewart - she showed no fear attacking the Liberty's elite rim-protecting duo and finishing contested shots over them.

"I'm super intrigued by Angel because I was curious how her game was going to translate against bigger, longer defenders in the WNBA, because so much of her productivity on the offensive end of the floor is within five-to-seven feet of the basket," Lobo told theScore.

"What she was able to do in terms of her productivity offensively and defensively in the preseason game against New York really opened my eyes," Lobo added, "because she doesn't see that kind of talented length on a regular basis in college."

Reese has left her mark at every stop on her basketball journey. Banners with her accomplishments hang in the gym at Baltimore's Saint Frances Academy. She was the first female player in her high school's history to have her jersey retired.

Reese went to Maryland as the highest-ranked recruit in program history and became the first Terrapin in 47 years to average a double-double. She then transferred to LSU and solidified her legacy in Baton Rouge, leading the Tigers to their maiden national championship in 2023.

Reese has been vocal about wanting to raise the standard in her new home, like her idol Candace Parker once did. She spoke with new Bears quarterback and fellow DMV native Caleb Williams about restoring a winning culture to Chicago's pro sports teams.

The Sky have work to do before they can call themselves title contenders, but Weatherspoon is confident they have the right person to lead them to the top.

"She's a worker. She doesn't settle. She wants more. She's hungry," Weatherspoon said. "She knows who she's playing against on a nightly basis. She gets that. She knows it. But she's up for the challenge.

"She desires the challenge - and that's the difference when you want to be great. When you're chasing greatness, there's certain things that you have to do, that you have to stand for. And she stands for it."

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