How does Angel Reese go from training to the Met Gala and back? ‘It’s what I do’

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CHICAGO — If you want to know how quickly the WNBA is changing, just watch Angel Reese’s week.

On Monday, her 22nd birthday, the Chicago Sky rookie made an unusual trip after practice in suburban Deerfield.

When people leave the Sachs Center, a health club in the Park District in a strip mall, they usually get some ramen at Jimmy Thai or a cup of coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts. When they really feel like ruining their workout, they go across the street to Portillo’s.

Reese, who is a little different than the average player, rookie or not, went to the Met Gala.

“These new kids,” veteran guard Diamond DeShields said, laughing and sighing. “They made it.”

Wearing a custom dress from British label 16Arlington, Reese enjoyed the night among the glitterati and then flew back to Chicago to get some work done on Tuesday. She scored 13 points and added five rebounds in 19 minutes as the Sky blew out the New York Liberty in a 101-53 preseason win.

“I went to the Met Gala, beat the Met Gala in New York, came back and beat New York,” she said. “It’s what I do.”

“Angel is unique,” ​​DeShields said. “She is incredibly unique. I think it’s really cool that she got the chance to go to the Met Gala. I mean, I’m still waiting for my invite.”

And for a meaningless preseason game, the Sky – who are not expected to be anywhere near the contenders and will miss their top pick Kamilla Cardoso for four to six weeks with a shoulder injury – rightly had Chicago on the move.

Reese has brought her shine to the team. While No. 1 Caitlin Clark is the undisputed leader in WNBA rookie celebrity rankings – she killed on Saturday Night Live before the draft – Reese is no slouch. That’s not why they drafted her No. 7 overall — she’s a ferocious rebounder and an accomplished inside scorer — but it doesn’t hurt to have some star power for a team looking for its share of the attention economy at a busy market. The Sky were led by hometown legend Candace Parker as they lit up the city and won the 2021 WNBA title, but that glow quickly faded.

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Now it’s a new team and a new time. It’s Reese’s time.

On Tuesday, her viral trip to New York sparked some intrigue: How would she play? — and then Chicago Bears Caleb Williams, Rome Odunze and Keenan Allen showed up and sat courtside, turning a game that was otherwise open only to season ticket holders into a stage.

Chicago athletes coming to Sky games is common — Williams, as the Bears’ No. 1 pick, adds a little extra pop wherever he goes — but Reese, always thinking big, predicts this will be a recurring story here and there will be the way.

“Everyone will be on the right side,” she said. “The celebrities will appear in court. Just know that the who’s who will be at court. I was at the Met Gala and Usher (he said) is going to try to get to a game in Vegas, and Cardi B. I know some people that you guys might not think I know, but I do.

The big news in the league right now is commissioner Cathy Engelbert’s surprise announcement (seriously, even the teams didn’t know this was coming) that the WNBA will be traveling on charter flights. The money is coming and it’s time for the WNBA to invest in its game. No more travel delays that wipe out a day off.

A private plane is, of course, how Reese got to New York so quickly. Again, she’s different.

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“I did all my hair and makeup on the plane,” she said. “Both my girls and one of my friends got on the plane with me. We do hair and makeup on the plane, blow-drying and ironing, which is crazy, but it turned out great, as you can see.”

With young celebrities like Reese and Clark in the league and the attention they’re attracting, perhaps that’s one reason why the WNBA is finally responding to the players’ long-held request for charter flights.

“I’m glad the league was proactive,” said veteran Sky forward Elizabeth Williams. “We’re in a time where, I mean, Angel has three million followers. She has a spotlight on her that none of us have and we have nothing to compare it to. And rather than an incident happening, I think this is a proactive approach.”

After all the hoopla, Reese said that if she had had a bad game against the Liberty, she would have heard her ex-coach at LSU, the ever-pissed Kim Mulkey, in her head, if not her current Sky head coach Teresa Weatherspoon. . So she made sure she was ready to play, even if it was just a preseason game. Reese could make a serious living as a social media influencer, but this is her career.

“I already knew the expectations, like I had to be locked in and focus on my matches,” she said. “I took my matchups seriously. I watched a movie while I was on the plane. I wanted to go back. People at the Met Gala were like, “Are you going to party after this?” I said, no, I have a match tomorrow. I have to watch a movie. I prioritize everything. I’m also still at school, so I have a busy schedule with a lot to do. But like I said, you have to maximize your 24 hours.”

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One of the greatest women’s basketball players of all time, Weatherspoon hasn’t coached a real WNBA game yet, but she’s clearly comfortable enough to let her players be themselves. It bodes well for her as she leads a largely new roster with limited outside expectations of winning.

As for Reese’s trip, she loved it. Weatherspoon said Reese “has earned that opportunity to go and me as her head coach, I’m not going to take that away from her.”

“How did I know I could trust Angel Reese?” she said. “Angel does angelic things, so I know she understands how to prioritize.”

At Sky’s media day on Wednesday, Reese spoke about the duality of her life and her image on and off the field.

“I always felt like I wanted to be the cute, pretty girl on the field, but I also wanted to be a dog and have that dog mentality,” she said. “So I want to continue to help women understand and know that you can do both.”

The idea that female basketball players perform best in college is foolish. At 22 years old, Reese’s career and life are just beginning. Her WNBA career hasn’t started yet, but it’s reasonable to expect we’ll be talking about her for a long time.

(Photo of Angel Reese: Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for The Mark Hotel)

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