Nov. 21 (UPI) -- LSU coach Kim Mulkey said she expects Angel Reese to return to the basketball court "sooner than later," but refused to tell reporters why the star forward missed the Tigers' last two games.
Reese, a preseason Player of the Year favorite, started the first four games of the regular season for the reigning national champions. She then missed the Tigers' 73-50 win over Southeaster Louisiana on Friday in Hammond, La., and a 106-47 triumph over Texas Southern on Monday in Baton Rouge, La.
Reese totaled 11 points and five rebounds in her last appearance, a 109-79 win over Kent State on Nov. 14 in Baton Rouge. She was benched in the second half because of what Mulkey called a "coach's decision." She then was not seen getting off the team bus in Hammond.
Mulkey did not provide specifics about the absence at her postgame news conference, sparking speculation that the star forward was suspended.
"It's very obvious Angel is not in uniform," Mulkey said Friday. "Angel is a part of this basketball team and we hope we see her sooner than later."
Mulkey referenced those comments when she met with reporters again Monday in Baton Rouge. She also cited "locker room issues" coaches regularly face during their college basketball tenures.
She declined to say if Reese was practicing with the Tigers or if she would play in their next game.
"You aren't entitled to that information," Mulkey said. "I'll say it again, Angel was not in uniform [Monday]. Angel is a part of this basketball team and Angel will be back sooner than later."
Reese responded to rumors Sunday, writing "please don't believe everything you read," on her X account. She also liked a post on the social media platform, contradicting a report that she was suspended because of a low grade-point average.
Reese, 21, is among the highest-earning athletes in college sports, according to on3.com's Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) revenue rankings. Those rankings report Reese's annual NIL income to be about $1.7 million this year.
The two-time All-American and the Most Outstanding Player from the 2023 NCAA Division I women's basketball tournament averaged 17 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.0 steals per game through her four appearances of the 2023-24 campaign.
The top-ranked Tigers (6-1) will play in the Cayman Islands Classic this weekend in George Town. They will take on Niagara on Friday and Virginia on Saturday at John Gray Gymnasium.
"You always have to deal with locker room issues," Mulkey said. "Sometimes you want to know more than you are entitled to know. I'm going to protect my players, always. They are more important. It's like a family."