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Flau'jae Johnson Says She Has a ‘Great Relationship’ with Coach Kim Mulkey: ‘She Keeps It Real’ (Exclusive)

Johnson had 21 points in LSU's 83-56 victory over Middle Tennessee on Sunday

<p>AP Photo/Gerald Herbert</p> LSU

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

LSU's Kim Mulkey and Flau'jae Johnson

LSU guard Flau'jae Johnson is singing head coach Kim Mulkey's praises as the Tigers advance in the NCAA March Madness Tournament.

The LSU guard, 20, tells PEOPLE that Mulkey, 61, is "an OG" of the sport and the annual tournament, and the Tigers "learn so much" from the highest-paid coach in women's college basketball.

"Man, I've got a great relationship with Coach Mulkey," says Johnson, who had 21 points in LSU's 83-56 victory over Middle Tennessee on Sunday.

Johnson continues, "I love playing under Mulkey. She keeps it real, gives us support, and I just learn so much from her just as a player."

The LSU star and rapper (she released a collaboration with NLE Choppa on Friday) adds that Mulkey is "a coach that's going to be honest with you," and says she "just tries to look to [Mulkey] however and whenever" she can.

"She just teaches me so much," Johnson adds of Mulkey, who won the inaugural women's NCAA tournament in 1982 as a player, and four more times as the head coach of Baylor and then LSU. "She's an OG in this thing, so she knows a lot."

Johnson and LSU are looking to defend their title as the NCAA women's champs this year after defeating Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes in last year's highly anticipated Finals matchup.

Related: LSU Star Flau'jae Johnson on Collabing with Lil Wayne: 'This Could Be My Entrance to the Industry' (Exclusive)

<p>AP Photo/Matthew Hinton</p> LSU head coach Kim Mulkey talks to LSU guard Flau'jae Johnson (4) during the game against Rice in the first round of the NCAA tournament

AP Photo/Matthew Hinton

LSU head coach Kim Mulkey talks to LSU guard Flau'jae Johnson (4) during the game against Rice in the first round of the NCAA tournament

But the Tigers aren't concerned about any added pressure on them after last year's win. "We've got a whole different team and a whole different type of expectation on us," says Johnson, "so I think we've just got to be who we are and I think it'll take us far."

As her star rises in sports and music, Johnson says her growing NIL partnerships have forced her to become more responsible and proactive about her finances.

"I really started taking my finances seriously in my freshman year of college because I had got my first shoe deal coming out of high school," Johnson says, "and you don't really learn about taxes or finances in high school how you should."

Johnson relates to "how confusing" it can be "trying to navigate this new space" as a college student, especially when she's focused on basketball. "It's so important in everyday life, which is crazy to me that you don't really learn it, and a lot of student-athletes don't know."

Conversations about navigating NIL deals and finances are common for college athletes, says Johnson. "Me and my teammates, we talk about it all the time. When you make the kind of money that we're making, and usually, we're working for ourselves, basically self-employed, so when you're doing that, those conversations are definitely happening, just to make sure that we're all on point."

Related: Shaquille O'Neal Says He's Only Watching Women's College Basketball This Year: 'Just a Better Game' (Exclusive)

<p>Greg Nelson /Sports Illustrated via Getty </p> Kim Mulkey and LSU win NCAA championship

Greg Nelson /Sports Illustrated via Getty

Kim Mulkey and LSU win NCAA championship

The basketball star, who has worked with brands like Puma, Powerade and JBL on NIL deals, says LSU "does a good job with financial literacy" planning for students and athletes. "It's super important because it's a new world. We're in college, but the fact that we get paid now, you have to act and treat yourself and your finances professionally," she adds.

Luckily for Johnson, her mother Kia Brooks is also her manager. "That's my momager," says the LSU star, "and it's been great to have somebody like that in my corner."

Johnson's latest deal is with TurboTax, and says her mom "helps me handle my finances" while navigating her NIL offers, "So I don't have to stress about it too much."

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Through her experience with NIL and financial planning courses from LSU, Johnson says she's developed a helpful motto for her financial health. "I always tell my mom, 'I really want to put in these four years of work now so I can maximize my next 40 years."

In partnership with Johnson, TurboTax is offering a resource guide specifically for NIL athletes.

The NIL Guide includes tips for players and their parents as they manage expenses for training, equipment and travel; earn income in multiple states and report the value on any expensive gifts they recieve.

Johnson and LSU will face either UCLA or Creighton on Saturday in the Sweet 16 as they continue defending their NCAA title.

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