LSU’s Angel Reese, the ‘Baltimore Barbie,’ comes home to a warm embrace

The sign held by a girl behind the LSU women’s basketball team’s bench Wednesday night was a tribute to the player the packed house was there to see. “Bayou Barbie,” it read — the nickname for one of the most popular players in the nation.

Reese and No. 7 LSU, the defending national champions, made a rare trip to the HBCU campus as part of Tigers Coach Kim Mulkey’s effort to schedule road games in the home cities of her players. When LSU called in February, Coppin State immediately accepted.

By Wednesday, the school’s 4,100-capacity arena was sold out, with tickets reportedly going for four times face value. More than two hours before tip-off, the purple and gold had begun to fill the gym. Little girls lined balconies wearing Reese’s No. 10 jersey.

Few expected it to be much of a game — and it wasn’t — but it was an occasion. Reese made sure of that as she went well beyond her 20-person ticket allotment and had plenty more family members and friends in the stands.

“We’re a basketball town,” Scott said. “To have one of our hoopers who has gone on to do tremendous things come back, but come back to Coppin State, an HBCU that has meant so much to Baltimore, that has so much deep basketball history itself, means the world. We’re going to show up for our own. And both Angel and Coppin are our own.”

This wasn’t the first time Reese was on the Coppin State campus for a college game, but this occasion felt much different. Nearly two years ago, before Reese transferred from Maryland, she made the short trip north early in her sophomore season following an injury-plagued freshman campaign.

She returned Wednesday as a two-time all-American with a national championship ring and an ESPY for best breakthrough athlete. She has appeared in a music video with Cardi B and Latto and has thrown out the first pitch at an Orioles game. Her name, image and likeness valuation, according to, is $1.7 million — ninth among all college athletes and second among women, behind only LSU gymnast Olivia Dunne.

Reese has become a star, and her return was an event. Even those wearing Coppin State gear cheered for Reese and gasped as she used a Euro step to get to the rim for an early layup.

“It’s rare that a big-time school comes to a small school, an HBCU at that,” said Derrick Morris, sporting a Coppin State sweatshirt, who hadn’t been to a game in at least eight years. “So that brought the spark back, like: ‘Hey, I’ve got to go. I’ve got to be here.’ It’s just remarkable. I feel the energy. Everyone is excited. People I haven’t seen in years are coming to the game. It’s good to see the support that the city is bringing to Coppin State University.”

Reese did not disappoint. She won the opening tip and had a pair of early steals and breakaway layups and banked in an ­off-balance runner in transition. She threw up three fingers after whipping a pass across court for a Flau’jae Johnson three-pointer. By the time she checked out for the final time with 3:18 remaining, she had 26 points, six rebounds, five steals, two assists and a block. The crowd showed its appreciation, showering her with applause.

“Angel has come back to Baltimore and done a lot of wonderful things, and this means a great deal to her,” Mulkey said. “And because it means a great deal to her, it means a great deal to us as a program.”