Years ago, back when they were both still in grade school, Angel Reese and her little brother Julian played together on a rec league basketball team. “We both wore goggles,” Angel remembers, “so they called us the twins.” All these years later, Julian isn’t so “little” anymore—at 6-9, he’s got about six inches on his sister—and the days when they could share a lineup are long gone. But they’ve still got at least one thing in common. As Angel says, “Now we’re getting recruited by the same kind of schools.”
A 4-star prospect in the 2021 class, Julian’s getting plenty of attention, but his sister is on another level: Angel entered her senior season at Baltimore’s Saint Frances Academy as a 5-star prospect gunning for the top spot in 2020. At 6-3, she’s a true unicorn—”the kid can play five positions and guard five positions,” says her trainer, Jimmy Price—with a passion for the game that separates her from pretty much every other player in the nation.
“She’s a fierce competitor,” says her AAU coach, Ron James.
“She got heart, more than anything,” says Julian.
“She’s fiery,” says her mom, Angel.
“She’s feisty,” says Price. “I’ve never seen a player who wants to win the way she does.”
And it’s been this way pretty much since day one.
Reese remembers being 4 or 5 years old, tagging along to practice when her mom—who played DI college ball and professionally overseas—was coaching a team of older kids. “I tried to play with them, but I couldn’t even get the ball up to the net, so they didn’t really let me on the court,” she recalls. “So I used to just dribble around the gym.” When she suited up on that rec league squad with her brother a couple of years later, she was the only girl on the roster. Clearly, the passion was always there.
It wasn’t long after that she started showing the skill to go with it. As her mom remembers, Reese was in fourth grade “playing on the sixth-grade team, and at that point I thought, ‘Oh, she can be something special. She has the heart for the game.’”
Reese says she didn’t fully realize her own potential until her freshman year, when she and her teammates traveled to the GEICO Nationals. “I was playing against these seniors, Tennessee commits, Notre Dame commits, all these top girls in the 2018 class, and I was getting buckets against them,” she says. “I was like, Dang, I feel like I got this.”
That run boosted her confidence, but she never got caught up in the hype—especially when she felt the hype was lagging. “I’m really passionate about the sport. I just love it,” she says. “I’ve cried over this so many times thinking I wasn’t good enough, why I wasn’t ranked as one of the top players, why everybody else got offers as early as they did. I don’t take anything for granted.” She’s clearly not the complacent type, but Reese at least doesn’t have to worry about rankings or offers anymore: Next fall, she’ll make the short trip to College Park to play for her home-state Terrapins, news that her family—especially her grandparents—are thrilled about.
There aren’t many holes in her exceptionally well-rounded game—she cites Kevin Durant, Ben Simmons, A’ja Wilson and Candace Parker among the players she emulates—but extending the range on her jumper remains the priority. On the court, she says her mindset heading into college is “do whatever it takes, play whatever position coach wants me to play, whatever it takes to help the team win.” Off the court? Reese is already looking to her post-playing career, and she’d love to get into broadcasting or modeling. Whatever she’s doing, Reese says, “I just want to be in front of the camera.”
Ryan Jones is a Contributing Editor at SLAM. Follow him on Twitter at @thefarmerjones.
Portraits by Peter Grill.