When it comes to her basketball career, 2020 St. Frances graduate Angel Reese has already turned the page, her steely determination now shifted to her future at the University of Maryland.
Her stellar high school career closed with four straight championships for the Panthers in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference; several individual awards, including The Baltimore Sun’s 2019-20 All-Metro Girls Basketball Player of the Year honor; and the prestige of being ESPN’s No. 2-rated prospect in the 2020 class.
So when she recently learned that she was named The Sun’s 2019-20 High School Female Athlete of the Year, the 6-foot-3 wing remained focused on what’s ahead.
“High school was great, but it’s in the past now and I’m ready for college. All the rankings and all the awards I’ve got, all that goes out the window as soon as I step foot at College Park,” Reese said. “So I’m happy I got the Athlete of the Year award, but I’m just working on what’s next for me because I know there are so many great players in college and I’m going to have to start things over.”
That mindset — along with her versatile skills, competitiveness and game sense — helped her reach the top. In her senior season, she averaged 18.6 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.5 blocked shots per game in leading St. Frances to a 25-3 record. She finished her career with 1,720 points — second in program history — and 1,250 rebounds while leading the Panthers to 104 wins and just 12 losses.
Part of a storied St. Frances program that includes WNBA great Angel McCoughtry and its all-time leading scorer Melba Chambers, who are both in the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame, Reese is the first player in any sport at the school to have her No. 10 retired.
“My staff and I decided this was a way to recognize her excellence as a player now and not wait,” St. Frances coach Jerome Shelton said. “We wanted to let her know what she accomplished at St. Frances with the championships and accolades she got, that she was a special player here.”
Reese entered her freshman year at St. Frances already a prized prospect, earned a starting position midway through her first season and improved every year. Throughout her career, her size and athleticism enabled her to play all five positions, allowing Shelton to put his star player in the best position to succeed and move her teammates around the lineup.
“In this day and age, younger players are feeling the pressure of potential and performance very early, sometimes before they even play a high school game,” Shelton said. “I think Angel came in and demonstrated a lot of poise, a lot of confidence, and I think she understood her role very well.
“Throughout her whole high school career, she was surrounded by good players, so I think she was able to adjust every year to the players that were around her. Some years we needed her to do a little more — particularly her last two — and she was able to do that. She provided us with what we needed in terms of scoring and rebounding and leadership.”
Junior guard Aniya Gourdine, an All-Metro first-team selection, said that Reese’s impact in games was obvious, but her work behind the scenes in practice was equally important.
“Angel is one of those players where, like in practice, you may not think she likes you, but she’s definitely going to push you to your best potential,” she said. “We got at it during practice. And we’re really close off the court, so I think it was more personal for us. We didn’t give each other any room. And that helped me because I knew if I could score on her, then I could score on anybody in our league because she was definitely the best player in the IAAM.”
Reese had to contend with constant double teams on the court and some negative attention off of it during her career. In the middle of her senior season, an opposing coach was fired after social media remarks she made about Reese were made public.
Reese said that any adversity she has faced has made her stronger and more mature.
“Outside of basketball, I really still want to enjoy my life and have fun, so when people say certain things, it’s just cruel and I just think, ‘I’m still a person, I’m still a human being,’” she said. “So I looked at a lot of stuff online as to how some high-profile athletes have reacted to certain situations and also having such a great support system from St. Frances and my family — having the great positive energy has helped.”
Asked to look back at her senior season and find her biggest highlight, she had plenty to choose from. There was the night she had her number retired, being named a McDonald’s All American and being selected to play in the canceled Jordan Brand Classic. But her final game — a 55-51 win over St. Vincent Pallotti for the IAAM A Conference championship — was the easy choice.
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“Winning that championship to make it four straight, that was great,” she said.