Column: Angel Reese just needed time. She took it Sunday as a WNBA star for the Chicago Sky

Angel Reese needed time. 

She needed time to learn, time to adjust to the WNBA and time to be a professional basketball player.

Still, Angel has struck me as an impatient kind of basketball player. As in, she was impatiently waiting to move past the struggles a first-year player in the WNBA could have. That's fair, she won a lot at LSU.

Reese has had no shortage of mentors. She got perhaps her most important piece of advice after a game against the Atlanta Dream.

"Tina Charles told me I got as much time as I need around the basket," Reese said. "That's what I took today. I took as much time as I needed to finish around the basket."

"Took" is the operative word. She didn't wait for it. She didn't ask for it.

Reese took it. That's what stars do, and she certainly has achieved stardom in the WNBA as a rookie. 

Reese's star never shined brighter after she took over the final five minutes in the 88-87 win over the Indiana Fever when she lifted the Sky in front of the likes of WNBA legend Sheryl Swoopes and a sold out Wintrust Arena crowd.

Reese scored seven of her 25 points and grabbed five of her 16 rebounds in the final five minutes of the game. She was the best player on the court.

Nothing could stop her as she re-set the WNBA rookie record with her eighth-straight double-double.

"I've been a playmaker all my life," Sky head coach Teresa Weatherspoon said. "You recognize where the momentum is."

The momentum has been with Reese for a while now.

The rookie had her rookie moments, but those moments grew fewer and far in between as she got more games under her belt.

But, that momentum comes with being a part of the most heralded rookie class in WNBA history. With games on national TV, like Sunday, all eyes are firmly on her.

Her achievements are lauded, but her mistakes are criticized harder than other rookies.

The toxicity from media members – who have never attended a Sky game in person, mind you – and the naysayers that detract from her game have to be difficult to tune out. Especially during a four-game losing streak like the Sky endured across the last couple of weeks. 

Still, Reese doesn't need help keeping these kinds of naysayers at bay. On paper, she's one of the best rebounders in the league with a chance to win the WNBA Rookie of the Year award. 

Inward, they can't quiet the player that's been getting exponentially better every week.

"I just let my game speak for itself," Reese said. "The most important thing for me is to win. I came to Chicago to build a culture here where it's a winning culture. I have a coach here that believes in me, loves me on and off the court. We have a great relationship. I have teammates that love me and appreciate me and that's all that matters. I have a family that loves me and appreciates me and everybody that I know really genuinely loves me. I have who I have. So outside really doesn't bother me. I mean, I just come out and play and let my performance speak for itself."

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 23: Angel Reese #5 of the Chicago Sky reacts during a game against the Indiana Fever on June 23, 2024 at Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Sunday's performance was one of those where Reese didn't have to say much.

If you watched her in the fourth quarter, it was clear the Sky's offense was running through her. If you saw the final five minutes, you saw how she helped defensively alter every play at the rim Indiana tried to make.

Weatherspoon said as much. The moment was Reese's. The team tried to make it as easier on her as possible in those waning moments, even if Reese made it look effortless.

"You don't want it to be so obvious where the momentum is, you want to move just a little bit to get it to that momentum," Weatherspoon said. "She had it going and we wanted to ride that. We wanted to ride it in the right way, not by just pounding, pounding, pounding and then possibly turning it over, but we wanted to still do it in what we wanted to do."

Still, you won't catch Reese taking credit for any of it in the fourth quarter.

When asked about being in position to make the correct play, Reese passed off credit to Sky point guard Linsday Allen and to the Sky coaches.

"Lindsay does a great job making sure that we get in our right spots before the plays getting called and make sure before we run it," Reese said. "Just being able to have vocal leadership from our vets, and then just listening to our coaches."

If Sunday was any indication, the Sky will be in for more days like this from Reese.

She's been focusing on putting a full game together, instead of stringing two or three good quarters together. She wanted to be more efficient, too. 

Reese was deadly efficient, making 8 of her 12 field goals. She still lamented over the four shots she missed, saying she needed to be better.

If Reese improves from how she played Sunday, superstardom is next. Only A'ja Wilson can claim to have a 25-point, 15-rebound game as a rookie in the WNBA. Coincidentally, Wilson is the next test for Reese this week.

Reese already has figures like Charles – an eventual Hall of Fame player – and Swoopes – a present day Hall of Famer – telling her they're proud of her.

When talking about Reese the basketball player, you can't wait to see what she does next.

If she keeps replicating the game we saw on Sunday, soon we'll be entering the Rookie of the Year discussion.

"The ball found her," Weatherpoon said. 


Sky rookie Angel Reese remains grounded after earning 7th most All-Star votes: 'I'm gonna have to earn it'

Reese, who earned 118,949 votes, has not taken the votes for granted. It was something that kept her grounded, as she knows an All-Star spot won't be gifted to her.