Angel Reese and Hailey Van Lith privately told Kim Mulkey when they’d leave LSU for WNBA

The LSU women’s basketball team went into this season already knowing when forward Angel Reese and guard Hailey Van Lith would likely depart for a chance to compete in the WNBA

Kim Mulkey has revealed that LSU women’s basketball stars Angel Reese and Hailey Van Lith were up-front with her about how many years they’d spend in college before leaving school for WNBA opportunities.

Reese told Mulkey she’d spend two years in Baton Rouge, while Van Lith pledged one campaign with the program. If they stick to those timelines, both players would depart after the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

However, Mulkey told reporters she’d welcome Reese and Van Lith back if they change their minds. Neither one has publicly said whether they will declare for the 2024 WNBA Draft and forgo their final year of NCAA eligibility.

“Angel said when she came here, she’d stay two years, and Hailey said she’d stay one,” Mulkey said. “I’m just not the kind of coach to sit people down and influence them on what agents to pick or talk about what they want to do. They surely know they have the COVID year to come back, and they would be more than welcome, but I try to stay away from having any kind of influential conversations. … They made it perfectly clear what they wanted to do.”

LSU will almost certainly go into next season ranked in the top 25 regardless of what Reese and Van Lith do. Junior Aneesah Morrow, sophomore Flau’jae Johnson and freshman Mikaylah Williams are all set to return after playing significant roles this year. Meanwhile, first-year forward Aalyah Del Rosario appears ready to take on more minutes, with Mulkey recently acknowledging that Rosario deserves additional court time.

“[Del Rosario] is probably a little aggravated at me,” Mulkey said following the New Yorker’s strong effort in limited minutes against Auburn last week. “She would never tell you that, but she should have played more tonight.” Del Rosario would likely slot into the starting lineup next season if Reese departs.

Kim Mulkey will let her players make their own decisions.
Kim Mulkey will let her players make their own decisions. 
Image:
Getty Images)
Analysts widely project Reese to be a first-round selection in the 2024 WNBA Draft if she declares, giving her an incentive to leave Baton Rouge sooner rather than later. Her stock will rise if more prospects follow the lead of UConn’s Paige Bueckers and stay in school.

Van Lith’s WNBA future is less certain because of her difficulties adjusting to a playmaking role this year following a transfer from Louisville. However, she’s shown signs of improvement and remains in the WNBA Draft conversation, having indicated that she wants to compete in America’s top women’s basketball league when possible.

The guard told NBC Sports shortly after joining LSU: “I want to play with other really great players that will help get me ready for the WNBA. I wanted to play with a really great five or a four and Angel Reese fits that perfectly.

“Coach Kim Mulkey, she’s one of the greatest and she’s fiery and intense but she also celebrates you, and lifts you up, and has your back like no other. I wanted to explore that relationship.”

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