By Seyoum Mensuphu-Bey,
Special to the AFRO
Social media networks and traditional media alike were set ablaze after the 2023 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship game, played between the Louisiana State University (LSU) Tigers and the University of Iowa (Iowa)on April 2. The phenomenal court matchup between Angel Reese and Caitlin Clark was absolutely spectacular, ending with a 102- 85 score.
But sports fans are not talking about the performance by Reese and the champion LSU Tigers.
Instead, the topic of conversation is solely focused on how Reese taunted her opponent, Caitlin Clark, as she soared towards victory. Much of the conservative male dominated media sector spewed a visceral of personal attacks toward Reese calling her “classless” and even sports broadcaster Keith Olbermann went as far to calling Reese a “
] idiot” via his Twitter account with 997,500 followers.
Reese and the LSU Tigers were one of the most dynamic teams in the country this year which led them to winning their first national championship. Clark had a career year, closing out the 2023 season with the Naismith Player of the Year honors.
The two have a history of being expressive on the court when facing off against high-ranking opponents. In fact, the photos plastered across the headlines all week have shown Reese mimicking moves that Clark herself did first in games against other players in the past.
But history shows us that African-American athletes are characterized very differently than White-American athletes. Luckily, Reese is a hometown girl. Those who personally worked with her were eager to talk about who the star athlete really is– outside of the negative headlines.
AFRO News got an up close perspective from Reese’s high school coach, Nytearia Burrell, at St. Frances Academy in Baltimore.
Burrell gave her reaction to Reese leading LSU to their first national championship and the criticism her former player has been receiving for taunting Clark towards the end of the national championship game.
“Angel– who we actually call ‘The Big Ticket’ – is the ultimate leader and she wants to be first at everything. I would consider her a competitor at heart. I knew she would find a way to lead her team to victory.”
Burrell also spoke on the criticism that Black women face in the sports industry.
“The criticism that Angel received was not random,” she said. “Black women in sports, Black women in professional spaces, Black women throughout the world are often not treated fairly and are treated worse than other women.”
Burrell gave the AFRO an interview discussing Angel Reese, the championship game and her personality on the court. Read below to find out more.
AFRO News: How long have you known Reese?
Burrell: “I coached Angel for four years and have known her for nine years prior to her coming to St. Frances.”
AFRO News: What type of player is Reese? What kind of person is she?
Burrell: “Angel has always been a leader. She not only holds her teammates accountable, but she is the first one to hold herself to a high standard. The criticism that she received is not a reflection of her character in any way.”
AFRO News: As a current coach and former competitor in the game of basketball, what were your thoughts on Dr. Jill Biden’s suggestion that the University Iowa join the winning team at the White House– despite them losing the national championship?
Burrell: “My stand on Dr. Jill Biden inviting Iowa to the White house is that the national champion should be for those who won the championship. I do like the stance of bringing women to the White House for inclusion, but that can happen at another time.”
AFRO News: What should the world know about Angel ‘The Big Ticket” Reese?
Burrell: “Angel is passionate about what she believes in and will remain loyal to the core. Angel is a giver, Baltimore is the city that she loves and I know that she will always come back to and give back to the city.”
The outcome of the NCAA women’s basketball National Championship game– and the fallout that ensued after the final buzzer– was bitter sweet.
Clark and Reese were able to bring millions of eyes to the sport of women’s basketball, potentially increasing popularity for the sport. Both Reese and Clark have great futures beyond the collegiate level.
In a surprising bit of irony, Reese’s cousin, Jordan Hawkins led the men of the University of Connecticut to an NCAA championship win on April 3. Hawkins added 16 points and 4 rebounds to the 76-59 victory over San Diego State.
Reese and Hawkins grew up together in Maryland and both are now national champions in collegiate basketball.
In response to her cousin’s win, Reese expressed excitement about the next family gathering.
“Cookout this year bout to go uppp (sic),” she tweeted.
Their victories are truly a win for the entire state of Maryland.