Angel Reese watches out for her younger brother, Julian, the way any older sibling would.
She predated him at Maryland, where Angel is a standout sophomore for the No. 13 Terrapins women’s team and Julian is a budding freshman on the men’s squad. They grew up in nearby Baltimore and both starred at St. Frances Academy.
Julian admits it can get kind of annoying—his older sister playing a protective, motherly role, watching out for her little brother who towers over her, and most people, at 6’9″. But it’s not all bad: Angel played a huge role in landing her brother two notable name, image and likeness (NIL) deals.
NIL is a lucrative, still somewhat new space that the siblings have broken into together this past year. The NCAA approved an interim, blanket NIL policy last July that allowed collegiate athletes, long barred from profiting from their own likeness, to ink sponsorship deals while still in school.
That’s how the Reeses ended up becoming Outback Steakhouse “TeamMATES,” in a deal with the international restaurant chain that involved six pairs of men’s and women’s basketball players from programs around the country. Angel and Julian stand out as the only siblings in the company’s post, something that Julian believes gives them a leg up in their marketability.
“I kind of knew, you and your sister going to the same school, those are bigger deals than any other guys, any other freshmen,” says Julian. “I feel like I have an advantage.”
Angel is the one with the plan that made all this happen. And she has a more recognizable brand than her still-emerging brother.
It all starts with her play on the court, of course. Angel broke out as a sophomore after missing much of her freshman year with a broken ankle, leading the team in points (17.5 per game) and rebounds (10.8) while averaging more than one steal and one block. She was named to the ballot for the John R. Wooden Award, which honors the top women’s college basketball player in the country, and was selected to the Big Ten first team and all-defensive team. Her Terrapins are a projected No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament in ESPN’s latest bracketology.
Angel’s dominance on the court carries over to the social media sphere. She has more than 67,000 followers on Instagram and more than 90,000 on TikTok, a rapidly growing short-form video platform. Her social media profiles include an email account for potential sponsors to contact her with. And business inquiries have flowed in.
Along with Outback, she has deals with Starface, a skincare brand; Giant Food, a supermarket chain located in the Washington, D.C.–Maryland-Virginia area; and Cameo, a service where users can pay athletes, influencers or artists for personalized video messages.
Just last week, financial service organization TIAA announced a #retireinequality movement to highlight the retirement income gap between men and women. Angel joined several notable WNBA and NCAA athletes, including Dawn Staley, Elena Delle Donne and A’ja Wilson in the campaign, which coincides with the 50-year anniversary of Title IX, a landmark law that made strides toward equality in education and women’s athletics.
Angel says NIL is especially important for women’s sports and announced her participation in the campaign by tweeting, “Title IX is 50, but we’ve still got work to do.”
She is judicious about the deals she agrees to.
“In the beginning it was so many different deals coming at me that were not really worth it,” she says. “They were just trying to give me money. I don’t want to just brand for anything, brands that I don’t really represent or like.”
The plan for Angel was always to sign deals with Julian. But when July 1 came around—the day the NCAA’s legislation took effect—Angel watched an explosion of announcements from college athletes regarding their newly minted partnerships and deals while she had nothing in the works.
She asked herself what she was doing wrong and allowed some time to pass before entering the space, originally with the assistance of an agent but no longer. Angel felt like she could do a lot of the ins and outs of facilitating deals through her sizable social presence herself. She’s advised by Jeanine Ogbonnaya, who she worked with when she was represented by an agency.
“Angel not only is a smart, beautiful and intelligent young woman, she fully understands her importance of her personal brand and leveraging it to assist brands,” Ogbonnaya says.
Ogbonnaya said her new employer does not work with college players, but Angel asked whether she could continue to advise her in navigating NIL and Ogbonnaya was happy to oblige. She looks out for Angel’s brother as well as her, helping land Julian a deal with Tom Brady’s apparel line BRADY. His deal with the recently retired quarterback’s brand put him in the same company as some notable, established athletes such as Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara and Henry Davis of Louisville, the first pick in the 2021 MLB draft.
Julian was nervous for the accompanying photo shoot and trip to New York, Angel says, but opportunities like that are important for him to get his name out there and extend his social presence, which she says was key in landing some of her deals or netting bigger paydays. She recognizes the opportunity she has to help her brother grow his brand by assisting him in this space, while the trials of college life and academics as well as the rigors of a college hoops schedule are still new to him.
“I just let things come to me,” Julian says.
Sometimes, businesses will tell Ogbonnaya and Angel they’re looking for a male athlete to partner with. “They’re like, ‘Do you know any players?’ And I’m like, ‘My brother?’” says Angel. “I try to include him in as many deals as I can because once I’m able to leave here [Maryland], hopefully we can sign with the same agency and do everything together, and my mom can just be right there, too. I think it’ll be easy for both of us.”
Angel and Julian’s mom, also named Angel, was a college athlete herself. Well before the days of NIL, the elder Angel starred at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
First and foremost, Angel wanted her and her children to fully understand the rules and regulations around this new legislation. “I didn’t want anything to jeopardize their eligibility,” she says. Beyond emphasizing the importance of staying within the bounds of the rules that govern this new space, Angel reminded her kids that school and sports come first—before their business opportunities. She’s careful to not be overbearing, though.
“In the beginning, Angel would say, ‘Mom, such and such company reached out to me about doing a deal,’” the elder Angel says. “And I would Google and do my own research and give that to them, and then they would take it from there.
“I never told them, ‘No you shouldn’t do this’ or ‘Yes, you should.’”
Angel notes how her kids’ contrasting personalities affect each of their approaches to NIL opportunities. Her daughter “has a very strong personality, and I think she knew what she wanted and she felt she knew what was good for her. As far as Julian, he’s really laid back. You will see him, definitely, before you hear him. He’s not a young man of many words.”
Where Angel is expressive and shows her excitement when she lands a new deal, Julian keeps up his poker face.
“The Tom Brady deal, when I found out about it I was like, ‘You’re going to New York!’ They’re gonna fly you there—first class!’” Angel says. “He was so nonchalant about it. I was like, ‘You’re representing Tom Brady! Tom Brady!’”
They’re both fierce competitors on the court—something Julian says goes back to their days of competing against each other growing up—but that comes out in different ways. The younger Angel summed up their personas on the court succinctly: “When I block shots, I get a tech. When he blocks shots, he doesn’t get a tech.”
Angel’s animated demeanor carries over to when she watches her brother and the men’s team play. And they’ll be in action Thursday night in Indianapolis against Michigan State, trying to extend their season in the Big Ten tournament.
“I’m always loud and yelling for him,” Angel says. “I’m always telling him, ‘You shouldn’t be fouling, you’ve gotta make that layup, you’ve gotta dunk that.’”
Julian’s more muted support of his sister comes out as well, saying, “I feel like they can go all the way” of the women’s team, which came up short last week in its Big Ten tournament title defense.
Their support for one another on and off the court comes out in basketball—and now in business, too.
“It’s not often that you get two siblings so close in age in the same sport at the same school both dominating,” Ogbonnaya says. “From a market standpoint, working with the Reese siblings is a no-brainer.”
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