Basketball legend Shaquille O'Neal expressed his excitement in an Instagram Story on Thursday as Angel Reese, known as “Bayou Barbie,” is set to make a much-anticipated return to the hardwood for No. 7 LSU against No. 9 Virginia Tech. Reese’s sudden departure from play, following a benching during the second half against Kent State on Nov. 14th, sparked widespread speculation
Reese's return is a welcome boost for the No. 7 ranked Tigers who have managed an impressive run, securing victories in all four games during her absence, and maintaining a strong performance with a 5-1 record. Her prowess on the court is undeniable; last season she led the Southeastern Conference in scoring and rebounding, setting an NCAA record with 34 double-doubles.
Coach Kim Mulkey confirmed Reese's availability for the upcoming game on Wednesday, a rematch from last year's Final Four, bringing relief and excitement to the team and supporters alike. The Tigers will, however, be without guard Hailey Van Lith and forward Sa’Myah Smith, with Van Lith nursing an aggravated foot injury and Smith out for the season. The situation around guard Kateri Poole’s absence remains unclear, as she will also miss the Virginia Tech game with no details on her return.
Reese’s hiatus, which included the absence from the Cayman Islands Classic over Thanksgiving week, had fueled various rumors, including academic issues, though none were confirmed by the LSU staff. Instead, Mulkey referred to the situation as “locker room issues”.