Catching up with the coach of 2017 WBI champs

Rice, 2017 WBI Champions
Rice, 2017 WBI Champions

Rice's Tina Langley fast tracks the Owls to success

Before current head coach Tina Langley arrived three years ago, Rice had not earned at least 20 wins in a season since the 2004-05 campaign when the team was a member of the Western Athletic Conference.

The following season, after the school left the WAC and moved to Conference USA, the women’s basketball team entered a long stretch in which they never advanced to the NCAA tournament or won at least 20 contests per season.

During 2016-17, Langley’s second season at the helm of Rice, she guided the team to a 22-13 record that culminated in winning the Women’s Basketball Invitational (WBI). The title was the team’s first-ever postseason championship (outside of a conference tournament).

This season the Owls are on track for another 20-plus win campaign.  With the end of the season looming, the team remains steady as one of the top squads in the Conference USA standings, only eclipsed by No. 1 Western Kentucky and the University of Alabama Birmingham.

This month, Langley provides an update of her team since last year’s banner ending and provided some insight on how she has been able to turn Rice into a winning program so quickly.

First, she gives credit to the student-athletes who manage their school work at a prestigious university with rigorous academic standards while competing on the Division I level.

“I’m just so fortunate to coach incredible kids,” Langley said. “We have a team of young women that are really self-disciplined. They’re Rice students…They know what it takes to be great in the academic world. They’re preparing for life after college.”

She also compliments her staff that includes assistants Lee Aduddell, Tasha Brown and Winston Gandy.

“I’ll also say it’s because of the staff I have,” Langley added. “You know they are great teachers of the game and put a lot of hours in and work incredibly hard. So, I think it’s just been a team effort.”

That team effort helped the Owls take down two other teams from Texas (Lamar and UTRGV) before reaching the semifinals of the WBI and beating Idaho to reach the title game against UNC Greensboro.

Before she came to Rice, Langley was an associate coach at Big 10-power Maryland. In her seven seasons next to Maryland head coach Brenda Frese, she helped recruit several highly-ranked classes and was instrumental in helping the Terrapins reach the Sweet Sixteen five times, the Elite Eight four times and two Final Fours.

While those were no doubt impressive feats, she calls the road to the WBI championship an “incredible experience.”

“No one on our team last year had ever played in the postseason,” Langley said. “So, to get the opportunity to play in the WBI was, what we felt was a great opportunity for the young women. First of all, to be rewarded for all the hard work and all that they’ve done throughout the year and just to be able to also begin teaching what the postseason looks like, how you prepare for it and what it means. So, we were just so grateful to be able to have the opportunity to send our seniors out with a win.”

That postseason experience is fodder for this year’s team to strive for success in the conference tournament and beyond.

“You know it does make you hungry to do it again,” Langley commented.  “You want to be playing at that time of the year, every competitor’s goal is to win. You know we want to be able to make the postseason and compete.”

While she says Rice’s roster “is not very deep, we’ve had a great deal of injuries this year,” the team has found ways to compete and win.

Redshirt sophomore Erica Ogwumike (one of the younger sisters of WNBA stars Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike) leads the team in scoring (17.4 points per game) and rebounding (9.2) per game. Her sister Olivia, a redshirt junior, also averages double digits for Rice at 11.0 points per game.

The Ogwumikes are transfers from Pepperdine. Another transfer, redshirt junior Nicole Iademarco (previous school: Arizona State), is second in scoring for Rice at 13.3 points per contest. Additionally, senior guard Wendy Knight tallies 11.0 points per game.

Next year will be exciting as well with Nancy Mulkey, a 6-9 transfer from Oklahoma, suiting up for the Owls. The team may be a little shorthanded this season but that has not stopped Langley from getting the most out of her players on a consistent basis within a short time span.

While time will tell if they reach the postseason again, it should not be a surprise to anyone to see the Owls excel during the most exciting time of the college basketball season.