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Mystery still swirls around LSU forward Angel Reese’s absence as star is set to play high-profile game Thursday

By David Close, CNN

(CNN) — LSU women’s basketball head coach Kim Mulkey said star player Angel Reese will return to the defending national champion’s lineup on Thursday against No. 9 Virginia Tech.

Reese has been mysteriously absent from the team since the Tigers faced Kent State on November 14.

Even before sitting down for her scheduled Wednesday press conference, Mulkey boasted:

Mulkey did not explain why the seventh-ranked Tigers’ marquee forward hasn’t even made the bench for LSU’s last four games. Reese didn’t travel with the team this past week for a high profile, two-game set against Niagara and Virginia at the Cayman Island Classic.

“She’s coming back after not being with the team,” Mulkey said. “We’ve moved on.”

On the court, Reese is one of the best players in the country.

She was named the 2023 Final Four Most Outstanding Player after the Tigers beat Iowa 102-85 in April’s NCAA national championship game. The first team All-American averaged 23 points and 15.4 rebounds last season.

Off the court, Reese is one of the most popular athletes in the country with over three million followers on Instagram, X and YouTube.

As speculation flooded social media as to why the superstar was not with the team, Reese posted on X, formerly Twitter, on November 19: “Please don’t believe everything you read.”

When asked if Reese was going to play against the Hokies with just one or even no practices before tip-off, Mulkey said, “Angel is available to play tomorrow. But if you want to know, Angel has been practicing.

“Do you wanna know how many hours? How many days? Specifics? She is not going to show up tomorrow and play a game.”

Mulkey said she didn’t expect Reese to be rusty in her return.

“I really think Angel will just be like Angel. I mean she has just been good, really good in practice.”

The head coach was repeatedly asked about Reese’s high-profile, two-game set absence.

Mulkey told the gathered media that there was a “sacredness” to a locker room. “What’s in that locker room stays in that locker room,” she said.

“Angel is back and we are happy, happy, happy. She’s happy, happy, happy.”

The Tigers-Hokies tilt on Thursday night is a 2023 Final Four rematch between the two programs; LSU won that game 79-72 en route to the national championship.

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