Who Can Replace Angel Reese and Hailey Van Lith at LSU?

Published 04/23/2024, 9:59 AM EDT

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The 2023 national champions LSU didn’t have the perfect ending to their campaigns. Not only were they knocked out from the Elite Eight stage by their adversaries Iowa, but two of its standout performers, Angel Reese and Hailey Van Lith are no longer a part of their locker room. While the three-time All-American Reese will now explore the professional dimensions of the sport in the WNBA, Van Lith will be seen in a TCU uniform as a senior.

Now the question that is on everyone’s minds is: how can the Lady Tigers restore their balance before the next season kicks in? However, there are some impressive prospects Kim Mulkey can get her hands on.

How can LSU look in the upcoming season?

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LSU was left empty-handed when they missed out on the country’s top women’s basketball prospect in the 2024 cycle, Sarah Strong. The No. 1 player has shortlisted Duke, North Carolina and UConn as her college choices. Nonetheless, there are still a handful of players who can shine in LSU colors. Out of them, one who has confirmed her commitment is the Lafayette Christian Academy graduate Jada Richard. The 5-foot-7 guard maintained her offensive and defensive prowess in high school with an average of 26.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.7 steals per contest. In addition to this, she was also instrumental in the Knights securing a fourth consecutive state title. As a result, Richard was named the Gatorade Louisiana Player of the Year.

The other names that can be a part of this prestigious program are as follows: Tampa sophomore Kailyn Gilbert is one of the names that is trending. In her two seasons at Tucson, she started in 19 games. Seemingly, she realized her true potential in the 2023-24 season when she scored at an average of 15.1 points and distributed 2.3 assists in every game. Gilbert came in handy defensively as well by grabbing 5.3 rebounds in each of her appearances.

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However, the roster is not overly reliant on these new faces as Mulkey still has some match winners left.

LSU’s old guards

Despite the exit of several players, the Lady Tigers still have some familiar faces Kim Mulkey can look towards in desperate times. One of them being the 5 ft 10 in guard Flau’jae Johnson. The sophomore has clearly improved her game this past season by notching a scoring average of 14.9 points per game. This number is impressive considering the fact that she was averaging 11 points in her previous season. Anyhow, this was not the only noteworthy development in her game. She also emerged as one of the team’s top 3-point shooters. Her accuracy from beyond the arc touched 38% by the end of the season. That was not all, as she was likewise efficient in her field goals as well (50.4%).

But the find of the season for Kim Mulkey turned out to be Aneesah Morrow. She was the only other player apart from Reese to keep up a double-double average throughout. Her 16.4 points and 10 rebounds per game played a key hand in the Lady Tigers run till the regional finals. Further, she also registered 22 double-doubles next to her name which were 5th best in the country.

Another player whose contributions were significant was freshman Mikayla Williams. The talented No.12 bagged 14.5 points and matched the long-range prowess by scoring 38% of her beyond-the-arc attempts.

Unfortunately, the situation continues to be dicey for Kim Mulkey and Co. as Reese and Van Lith are not the only names departing.

The other athlete who is no longer a part of the 2023 NCAA champions

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The headlining transfer from Kim Mulkey’s crew this season has been that of guard Janae Kent. After her rather quiet season with the Lady Tigers, the sophomore decided to be a part of their SEC rivals Texas A&M. Kent was more of a rotational option for Mulkey when she featured in the 32 games for LSU. Her only start came when an injured Mikayla Williams paved the way for her against the current national champions South Carolina. She was able to contribute only 3 points in that game while her season-high figure was registered against Queens and Texas Southern (7 points).

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It will be an uphill task for Mulkey and the rest of the management to assemble a top-class roster once again. Still, they have a world-class coach in the form of 3X USBWA National Coach of the Year. Consequently, LSU fans are hopeful she will do something she has done multiple times before. And that will be to build a national championship-winning squad.

Do you believe Kim Mulkey can put together yet another formidable squad?

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Written by:

Shahryar Fazal

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Shahryar Fazal is a senior NBA writer at EssentiallySports. His specialisation lies in his scrupulous Live Coverage of the events like NCAA and WNBA tournaments. A former sportsman himself, Shahryar used to contribute stories for publishing houses like TOI before taking up American sports as his field of interest.
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Edited by:

Caroline Joseph