The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

‘It’s not personal’: Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese speak on their relationship, growing women’s basketball

There’s no animosity between Clark and Reese. It’s just sports.
Grace Smith
Iowa guard Caitlin Clark smiles after an NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen game between No. 1 Iowa and No. 5 Colorado at MVP Arena in Albany, N.Y., on Saturday, March 30, 2024.

ALBANY, N.Y. — Since the final moments of last year’s NCAA title game, the media and basketball fans alike have tried to pit Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese against each other.

With the clock running out and a 102-85 LSU victory secured, Reese flashed the “you can’t see me” gesture before pointing to her ring finger and following Clark around on the court. This moment became the story of the national championship game and is one of the main reasons Monday’s Elite Eight matchup has been highly anticipated since brackets were released on March 17.

For Clark and Reese, their so-called rivalry that has drawn comparisons to Magic Johnson and Larry Bird has been made a bigger storyline than it is.

There’s no animosity between the two athletes — it’s just sports.

“I don’t think people realize it’s not personal,” Reese said on Sunday. “If I see you walking down the street, it’s like, ‘Hey girl, what’s up? Let’s hang out.’ I think people just take it like we hate each other. Me and Caitlin Clark don’t hate each other. I want everybody to understand that. It’s just a super competitive game.”

Clark and Reese have matched up on the hardwood since high school, as their respective AAU teams once met in a championship game, the LSU forward said Sunday. Out of Baltimore, Reese committed to the Maryland Terrapins over offers from South Carolina, Tennesee, and USC. While Reese was in the Big Ten, she played Clark and the Hawkeyes twice and came out on the winning side in both games. She then transferred to LSU ahead of the 2022-23 season and led the Tigers to their first national title.

Reese credited her Baltimore roots for her “rougher” approach on the court and said she’ll do “whatever it takes to get in your head the whole entire game.”

“I’ll take the villain role. I’ll take the hit for it,” Reese said. “But I know [Caitlin and I] are growing women’s basketball. If this is the way we’re going to do it, then this is the way we’re going to do it. You either like it or you don’t.”

Clark added that she and Reese aren’t the only “trash-talkers” in women’s basketball, and it’s part of what makes the game fun for both players and viewers. The NCAA’s leading scorer said she and Reese share the same competitive fire and will do “anything it takes to win.”

While Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said she’s never been a huge trash-talker — adding with a laugh that players “had a lot of time to talk at the half-court line” when she played six-on-six basketball in high school — she understands it’s a form of passion and a norm in today’s college athletics.

LSU head coach Kim Mulkey has quite the opposite approach to the game, saying she’s always been a trash-talker and is glad the media wasn’t around when she was a player to capture her on camera.

For both Bluder and Mulkey, though, it bothers them when adults tear down college athletes like Clark and Reese.

“Isn’t this what we all wanted, for our game to continue to rise?” Bluder said. “All we should be doing is building them up. They’re amazing.”

Bluder has said several times this season she encourages her players to stay off social media and ignore comments from those who “don’t really know us.” LSU players like guard Hailey Van Lith have the same mindset.

“I think enough people enjoy it obviously because women’s basketball is going better than it’s ever done,” Van Lith said about trash-talking during games. “You can choose to focus on the people who say bad things about it, but at the end of the day, they’re talking online for a reason. They would never be in that situation to begin with because they’re too busy commenting on other people’s lives.”

Heading into Monday’s slate of games, which features an Elite Eight contest between USC’s Juju Watkins and UConn’s Paige Bueckers, Clark expects high television ratings like last year’s national championship, which averaged 9.9 million viewers. Watkins is a first-year phenom for the Trojans and is second in the nation in scoring behind Clark. Bueckers, now in her redshirt junior year, won National Player of the Year in her rookie season and is back playing full-time for the Huskies after tearing her ACL.

Clark said if she was an average basketball fan, she would be “glued to the TV like no other.”

No matter what happens on Monday, Clark said she and Reese will both have great careers in the WNBA, something they’ve both dreamed about their whole lives.

“I think the worst part of it is two teams are getting sent home. All of them can’t keep playing, but that’s what makes this competitive environment so fun,” Clark said. “Everybody’s fighting to be able to play one more game, to come back to practice with one another. And I think more than anything, it’s just great for our game, and I’m lucky to be a part of it.”

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About the Contributors
Kenna Roering
Kenna Roering, Sports Editor
Kenna Roering is The Daily Iowan's sports editor. She is a junior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism with a minor in sports and recreation management. Kenna previously worked as a sports reporter for men's wrestling and volleyball and was the summer sports editor in 2023. This is her second year with the DI.
Grace Smith
Grace Smith, Senior photojournalist and filmmaker
Grace Smith is a fourth-year student at the University of Iowa double majoring in Journalism and Cinematic Arts. In her four years at The Daily Iowan, she has held the roles of photo editor, managing summer editor, and visual storyteller. Outside of The Daily Iowan, Grace has held an internship at The Denver Post and pursued freelance assignments for the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Des Moines Register.