The Rice women’s basketball team is going to look different this season. With the coaching transition comes an unusually high level of roster turnover.
Things are going to look different at Tudor Fieldhouse this season. The departure of former Rice women’s basketball head coach Tina Langley for Washington sent shockwaves through the Owls’ roster. Rice acted quickly, filling the vacated position with former NC State assistant Lindsay Edmonds, but at that point, the proverbial cats were out of their bags.
In the span of a few months, four of the Owls’ five starters left the program.
Thrust into a suddenly more strenuous position than originally expected, Edmonds summed it up rather succinctly, “it’s been a whirlwind.”
Transfers are common when coaching transitions happen in college athletics. Players, understandably, share a loyalty to the coach that recruited them. Others take the opportunity to look around at their alternatives, possible for the first time. Rice saw the ripple effects of both of those scenarios.
Edmonds did what she could to keep that talent from flocking away from South Main. “The roster turnover is definitely not something that I anticipated or wanted to happen,” she said. “I fought really hard to keep them.” Unfortunately for the Owls, several chose to move on.
On the way out
Nancy Mulkey, who was eligible for the WNBA Draft, pulled her name out at the last minute. Rather than go pro, she opted to follow Langley to Washington. Also joining her former coach at a later date was forward Lauren Schwartz. Unfortunately, there were more.
Sydne Wiggins and Jasmine Smith both decided to transfer to SMU. And just like that, Rice had lost their head coach and four of their five starting players in the span of a few short months. Katelyn Crosthwait is the lone starter who opted to remain at South Main along with Edmonds, now tasked with rebuilding a roster.
On the way in
Rice women’s basketball added one transfer to the mix, Alexis Stover, who transfers to Rice from Wright State. She averaged 2.1 points per game with the Raiders in her senior season and started 45 games across her two seasons there after beginning her career with one season at Ohio. Now one of the most veteran players on the roster, Edmonds is hopeful Stover’s experience will pay dividends for the Owls.
Joining the Owls from the high school ranks are Malia Fisher and Trinity Gooden. Both signed with Rice last winter and were recruited by Langley and her staff. Still, have the potential to play meaningful roles in the years to come.
The new-look roster
The losses were tough, but in time, seems to have reoriented herself to the new reality and her new roster. “The ones that are here and wanted to be here with us are here, and that’s what we’re gonna roll with,” she said rather resolutely.
Rounding out the rest of the roster are juniors Haylee Swayze and Arianna McCurry, sophomores India Bellamy, Ashlee Austin, Destiny Jackson and Crosthwait plus redshirt freshman Maya Bokunewicz. At this time, Edmonds says this is likely the roster they’ll go to battle this season.
The roster, as is, sits at 10 members, a thin collection in a typical season without potential COVID-19 challenges to wrestle with. The 2022 class should be a sizable one. But the Owls have to get there first.
Undeterred, Edmonds is eagerly embracing the task at hand. Her last several months have been spent building relationships, on and off the court, with current members of the team. For her, that’s brought a sense of normalcy back to the process.
“I’m really excited about the ones that are here,” she reiterated. “The numbers aren’t nearly as high as I would like them to be, but I think everyone that is on the roster can do something to help us this season.”
The reality is this team is going to look different, very different. But just like Langley inherited an unrefined product and turned it into an NCAA Tournament caliber team, Edmonds will have her own shot to build this roster. And it’ll happen from the ground up.