BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — LSU star forward Angel Reese sat in the back of an orange convertible Corvette, waving to thousands of fans lining the roadside — and also waving her hand in front of her face from time to time, repeating a gesture that caused a stir at the end of the national championship game.
The Tigers paraded across campus and into the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on Wednesday night for ceremonies to honor their first NCAA women’s national championship, captured Sunday with a 102-85 victory over Iowa in Dallas.
“I’m trying not to cry,” said coach Kim Mulkey, a Louisiana native who left behind the three-time national champion powerhouse she’d built at Baylor two years ago to take over at LSU.
“This is my home,” she said, noting that her mother was in the arena.
Reese was not among the players who spoke at the event. But she has been outspoken on several topics this week.
She was unapologetic when questioned about waving her hand in front of her face while staring down Caitlin Clark during the game. Clark, The Associated Press Player of the Year, made a similar gesture to no one in particular during Iowa’s victory over Louisville in the Elite Eight.
Reese also has said she would not accept an apology from First Lady Jill Biden for suggesting that both LSU and runner-up Iowa be invited to the White House. President Joe Biden did not follow through on that idea, inviting only LSU and men’s national champion Connecticut.
LSU star guard Alexis Morris, an outgoing senior who aspires to play in the WNBA, was among the players who did address the crowd inside the arena.
“LSU, thank you. I appreciate your love, your unwavering support and for believing in us,” she said. “I just want you all to know I love you with all my heart.”
Mulkey, who won a national title as a player for Louisiana Tech, said it was her goal to win a national title with the flagship university of her home state. But she said she never put a timetable on that.
Holding up a page of notes from a preseason meeting with her players, Mulkey said, “Nowhere on here does it say, ‘Win a national championship.’”
She said the goals she’d written down were to win 90% of nonconference games, finish in the top four of the SEC, win one game in the SEC Tournament and remain ranked in the AP Top 25 throughout the season.
She also told the team, “If you will play defense and if you will rebound the ball, you may surprise yourself.”
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards was among the speakers following the parade.
“Louisiana always had faith in you, but more importantly, you had faith in yourself and were smart enough not to listen to all the experts who said you didn’t have a chance,” Edwards told LSU’s players.
As for Mulkey, Edwards said, “We all knew she could do it, but what she has done to elevate this program and all of women’s sports is truly remarkable.”
Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome presented Mulkey with a key to the city.
More AP coverage of March Madness: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25