With the line snaking to the end of the Northwood shopping center and 12-year-old DJ A-Eazy bumping the bass-heavy banger “Hit The Quan” in DTLR, Angel Reese did the most unexpected thing: The Baltimore-area native known for her brash on-court behavior slid in quietly through the back entrance.

Reese was making her second public appearance of the day after spending her morning at the Scotts Branch Recreation Activity Center in Randallstown, where the basketball court was named in her honor. DTLR partnered with the LSU star — who was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four after leading the Tigers to a national championship — for an in-store meet-and-greet where attendees could chat with her and purchase one of her “Bayou Barbie” T-shirts. Sales of the apparel go toward the Angel Reese foundation, with DTLR matching every dollar to establish a scholarship fund at her alma mater, St. Frances.

As was the case this morning, Reese’s fans were anxious to see the recent ESPY winner for Best Breakthrough Athlete.

LSU Tigers forward Angel Reese is interviewed at the DTLR apparel store near Morgan State University on July 17, 2023. The college women’s basketball star formerly played at St. Frances Academy high school in Baltimore before playing for the Maryland Terrapins and later transferring to Louisiana State University. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

A set of 14-year-old twins, Kennedi and Khloe Mills, jumped up and down outside the door as soon as they noticed Reese through the window. They yelled, “Oh my God!” over and over.

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“I thought it was an excellent opportunity to bring my girls to meet Angel because of what she’s done for women’s basketball, and being a Baltimorean that comes home and gives back,” said the twins’ dad, Rashad Mills. “It’s great for young girls to see that success is attainable, they can see it, feel it and it gives them inspiration.”

Reese, who declined interviews at both events, spoke to a small crowd in the store before security started letting people in.

LSU Tigers forward Angel Reese is interviewed by DTLR Radio host FadamGotDaJuice at the DTLR apparel store near Morgan State University on July 17, 2023. The college women’s basketball star formerly played at St. Frances Academy high school in Baltimore before playing for the Maryland Terrapins and later transferring to Louisiana State University. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

“Growing up in Baltimore, you see a lot of people that don’t make it out,” Reese said. “Being able to take my talents to LSU was a growth point for me, being able to take that on, mature and be off on my own. The main thing I want to do is inspire young women. I started my foundation with that in mind, and we’re going to establish and fund a scholarship at St. Frances, where my aunts went and where I was able to go to school with my brother.”

Lola Saunders, a junior forward/center at Charles Herbert Flowers High School in Prince George’s County, and her teammate, Elyse Cooper, a shooting guard/small forward, were among the first to meet and talk to Reese. Stuck in rush-hour traffic on the drive in from Bowie, the girls had no problem sitting through the hour-and-a-half drive into Baltimore.

“We watched LSU all year and were rooting for them to win the national championship,” said Saunders. “There’s just something about her presence and what she represents. I play the same position that she does, so I look up to her, both in terms of her game, style and skills, and for what I want to achieve in life.”

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“I just love how she’s always being herself and that inspires me,” said Cooper. “Watching her win the national championship this year, it was like, if I can see her do it, then I can do it, too.”

Saunders’ mother, the radio host known as Steph Lova, was also looking forward to being around Reese.

“We’re trying to get Lola acclimated to what this world of elite college athletics is all about,” she said. “This is an inspiring experience for my daughter because Angel Reese, she’s the one! We had to come and see the Bayou Barbie in person and to catch some of that Black girl magic.”

Ta’ira Taylor, front right, and Kamari Warren, to her left, dance in line while they wait to meet LSU Tigers forward Angel Reese at the DTLR apparel store near Morgan State on July 17, 2023. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Reese’s appearance drew fans of all ages — whether or not they have close ties to the game.

“This is what success looks like — it’s about making it and as you’re making it, coming back home to give back,” said Rico Silva, the East Baltimore native better known by his stage name, DJ QuickSilva. “Angel is a walking testimony that if you put in the hard work with dedication and consistency, you can become anything.”

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LSU Tigers forward Angel Reese is hugged by Maria Cozart at the DTLR apparel store near Morgan State University on July 17, 2023. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Reese reiterated her goal to win another national championship and talked about her long-term plans.

“I want to win another national championship next season and bring that back on home to Baltimore,” Reese said. “After that, my goals are to graduate and go on to the WNBA.”

As far as how she’d like to be remembered when the basketball eventually stops bouncing, she doesn’t mention anything sports-related.

“I want to be remembered as the one that gave back, the one that all the little girls can look up to,” she said. “I want to make an impact and let little girls know to just be unapologetically you, to be the one who stands out in the room, don’t let anybody put you into a box and be who you are. I keep it real, I’m unapologetically Angel. That’s my message.”

alejandro.danois@thebaltimorebanner.com

Alejandro Danois was a sports writer for The Banner. He specializes in long-form storytelling, looking at society through the prism of sports and its larger connections with the greater cultural milieu. The author of The Boys of Dunbar, A Story of Love, Hope and Basketball, he is also a film producer and cultural critic. 

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