Tramel's ScissorTales: Inside Langston basketball's epic turnaround from 1-27 to 21-1
Chris Wright spent four years coaching basketball at Talladega College, an Historically Black College or University. Wright felt the pull to another HBCU school.
And Langston basketball hasn’t been the same since.
The Lions, 1-27 a year ago, now are 21-1 and ranked third nationally in the NAIA. A trip to the NAIA national tournament seems certain. A national championship seems possible.
“Man, it’s been obviously quite the turnaround,” Wright said Tuesday. “When I got hired (in late April), I really felt this was a place we could win an NAIA national championship.”
Wright has turned around Langston basketball the way most coaches on every level have turned around programs. Through transfers.
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Only one player remains from last season, and a bevy of incoming talent has fortified the Lions.
Tristan Harper, a 6-foot-6 forward from NCAA Division II Middle Georgia, is averaging 14.3 points a game.
Cortez Mosley, a 6-5 junior-college transfer, is averaging 10.3 points and, Wright says, is the Sooner Athletic Conference’s best defender. Langston leads the SAC in scoring defense by more than 10 points a game.
Point guard Toru Dean, averaging 9.2 points a game, transferred from NCAA Division II Barry University. Wright calls him a “coach’s dream” of a point guard.
Guard A.J. Rainey, a transfer from LSU-Alexandria, is averaging 12.8 points. Guard D’Monte Brown, from Miami-Dade College, is averaging 12.4.
Wright coached Talladega to the NAIA national title game last March. But a change in administration prompted him to look elsewhere.
“Kind of a God thing,” Wright said, “with the vision of our president (Kent Smith). I knew this was a special place, I thought we could get this thing up and running.”
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Langston has a proud cultural and athletic history, and Wright’s staff seized upon the transfer nature of modern sports to entice players to the Logan County university just east of Guthrie.
“It’s been really cool to see how our guys have responded,” Wright said. “I always feel like at this level, if you can have 10 or 11 guys that can play at the low Division I level, you’re going to have a chance to make a deep run.”
It’s not always a good look when a coach arrives and the roster undergoes a complete makeover. Wright understands that.
“Some guys had the opportunity to come back, but they realized it wasn’t for them,” Wright said. “We didn’t come in with the mindset of get rid of everyone, but as we got into it, started recruiting, that’s how it worked out.”
Wright grew up in the Fort Worth suburb of North Richland Hills and graduated from the University of Texas. In a 20-year coaching career, he’s been head coach at Central Baptist in Conway, Arkansas; Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa; Fresno Pacific; and Talladega in Alabama.
Langston is 15-1 in the SAC, with a four-game lead in the standings.
The SAC traditionally has been an Oklahoma stronghold but now is half out-of-state schools.
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Make ‘Em Believe … 🦁🔥#goLions #FeartheRoar pic.twitter.com/VSKi2AxHnA
— Langston Athletics (@LangstonSports) January 30, 2023
Langston, Oklahoma City University, Panhandle State, Southwestern Christian, Mid-America Christian and Oklahoma Sciences & Arts (USAO) are the Oklahoma schools. Central Christian of Kansas, John Brown of Arkansas and Texas schools Wayland Baptist, North Texas-Dallas, Southwestern Assemblies of God and Texas Wesleyan round out the league.
The SAC last won the NAIA national title in 2017, with Texas Wesleyan. An Oklahoma team last won in 2016, with Mid-America Christian. Oklahoma teams dominated the NAIA in the previous decade, with Oklahoma Baptist (2010), OCU (2007, 2008) and USAO (2002) winning.
Now Langston has entered the picture.
“As a coach, we’re aways worried about the next game,” Wright said. “But I think we’re every bit as talented as the team that I had last year at Talladega. If we’re mostly healthy, we’ll have a chance to cut down the nets
“I loved my four years at Talladega, working in an HBCU. Continuing that here at Langston is something special to me, very appealing. I’d heard of Langston, knew something about it. Kind of a hidden gem here.”
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The List: 2023 Big 12 football schedule
A 14-team league, with a nine-game format, makes for cumbersome scheduling. The Big 12 released its 2023 schedule Tuesday, and there were some traditional games protected and some long-term rivalries not protected.
Here is a list of each Big 12 member’s omissions from their 2023 schedule:
Oklahoma: Tech, Baylor, Kansas State, Houston. The Sooners kept Bedlam and Texas. Among the new members, OU plays all but UofH. And the Sooners will be glad to be rid of K-State, which is quite the nemesis.
Oklahoma State: Texas, TCU, Tech, Baylor. Maybe the strangest twist in the schedule. The Cowboys play none of the legacy schools from the Lone Star State.
Texas: OSU, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Central Florida. Interesting that the Longhorns drew none of the three Eastern Time Zone members. UT plays 10 games in the state of Texas this season.
Baylor: OU, OSU, Kansas, BYU. Baylor-BYU seemed to be a budding rivalry, having played each of the past two seasons. Maybe the Big 12 wanted the Bears to experience every new member quickly.
Texas Tech: OU, OSU, Iowa State, Cincinnati. Tech is playing all four other Texas schools. Come to think of it, every Texas school is playing every other Texas school.
Texas Christian: OSU, Kansas, Cincinnati, Central Florida. You never know in the suddenly-turvy-topsy Big 12, but this seems like a tough schedule for the Horned Frogs. All four of these teams could finish in the second division.
Houston: OU, Kansas, Iowa State, BYU. The Cougars, like the Longhorns, play 10 of their 12 games in Texas. After a 27-year odyssey since the breakup of the Southwest Conference, that’s got to feel good.
Iowa State: Tech, West Virginia, Central Florida, Houston. The Big 12 protected the Cyclones’ Big Eight roots. They play both Kansas schools and both Oklahoma schools.
Kansas State: OU, West Virginia, Cincinnati, BYU. The Big 12 didn’t protect K-State's Big Eight heritage – no Sooners – but a non-conference game at Missouri fills the void.
Kansas: TCU, Baylor, West Virginia, Houston. The Jayhawks, like OU and OSU, play just one game in the state of Texas.
West Virginia: Texas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Kansas. WVU avoids all three Farm Belt teams – ISU and the Kansas schools. The Mountaineers join OSU as the only teams to play all four new Big 12 members.
Brigham Young: Baylor, Kansas State, Central Florida, Houston. Interesting that BYU plays only Cincinnati among its fellow new members.
Cincinnati: Texas, TCU, Tech, Kansas State. Cincy’s only road games against legacy Big 12 members are in Stillwater and Morgantown, so it will take the Bearcats awhile to get a feel for their new conference.
Central Florida: Texas, TCU, Iowa State, Baylor. The Knights play in both Manhattan and Lawrence, so they will get their fill of the Sunflower State.
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Farewell to Tom Brady
Tom Brady retired, again, on Wednesday, and this time we all think it will stick. Twenty-three NFL seasons, 22 of them as a starting quarterback, with more records than can be counted, many of them seemingly unbreakable.
Heck, I don’t need to say anything about Brady’s career. It’s impossible to overstate his accomplishments.
The longevity is what amazes me most. He’s 45 years old and still quarterbacked a team to the 2022 National Football League playoffs.
For fun, here’s how I like to rationalize Brady’s run, with a sampling of the people younger than Brady, who was born August 3, 1977, when Elvis Presley still was alive.
Brady is older than Shaun Alexander, the 2005 NFL most valuable player. Brady is older than James Harrison, who was in mid-career when he became a Super Bowl hero for the 2008 Steelers. Brady is older than Plaxico Burress, whose great career was derailed by a 2008 self-shooting scandal.
Brady is older than Quincy Carter, who replaced Troy Aikman as the Dallas Cowboy starting quarterback in 2001. Brady is older than Clint Stoerner, an Aikman backup in 2000.
Brady is older than Laveranues Coles, who had eight catches for the Jets in the 2001 playoffs. Older than Ron Dayne, who rushed for 82 yards for the Giants in the 2000 playoffs.
Brady is older than Andy Katzenmoyer, who scored a touchdown for the 1999 Patriots. Older than David Boston, who caught 40 passes for the 1999 Cardinals. Older than Sirr Parker, the hero of the 1998 Big 12 Championship Game.
Brady is older than Calvin Johnson, who went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2021. Older than Edgerrin James, who went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020. Older than Champ Bailey and Ed Reed, who both went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2019. Older than Brian Urlacher, who went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018. Older than LaDainian Tomlinson, who went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2017.
Brady is older than Zac Taylor, who became head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2019. Brady is older than Matt Nagy, who became head coach of the Chicago Bears in 2018. Brady is older than Adam Gase, who became head coach of the Miami Dolphins in 2016. Brady is older than Sean McVay; 8½ years older.
Brady is older than Marcellus Rivers, Juqua Parker and Kenyatta Wright, stalwart OSU Cowboys from the 1990s.
And now Brady is gone from a league in which he has been a shining star for 22 years, 21.5% of the NFL’s history.
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Mailbag: Baseball pitcher Al Brazle
Baseball history remains a passion of mine, so I’m always eager to receive correspondence about the dusty days of the diamond game.
Brian: “I’ve enjoyed your writing for years. An old friend of mine recently told me about this long-forgotten ballplayer from Oklahoma, Alpha “Al” Cotton Brazle. He was born in 1913 in Loyal, Oklahoma, and attended Sickles High school. That is the part of the state where I grew up. Doing a Google search, I discovered that he had played minor league baseball in the Red Sox organization. Had once been a roommate of Ted Williams. Got traded to St. Louis. Was a rookie in 1943 at 29 years of age. Fought in 1944 and 1945 in World War II. Came back to resume his career in 1946 where he was a member of the Cardinals’ World Series championship team. Had two seasons where he won 14 games each. Became a relief pitcher later in his career and led the league in saves two years in a row. His last year was 1954 when he was 41 years old. He had the nickname of Cotton. Presumably because he was raised on a cotton farm. I found his story to be fascinating and I wanted to pass it along to you. Might make for an interesting story for you to write about.”
Tramel: I came across Al Brazle’s career in 1993. He’s one of the guys who motivated me to undertake one of my favorite projects during my time at The Oklahoman. In ‘93, I picked an all-time Oklahoma baseball team, made up of players who grew up in the state.
Brazle was on my team, as a relief pitcher. He spent 10 years in the majors, 1943 and 1946-54. His career was interrupted for military service. Brazle’s career record was a quite healthy 97-64; he started 117 of 442 games. He indeed led the National League in saves for 1952 (16) and 1953 (18).
I knew that Brazle was born in Loyal (the town with a school that later merged with Omega to form Lomega, the girls basketball powerhouse). But I did not know that he attended Sickles High School (which since has consolidated with Lookeba to form Lookeba-Sickles.
Credit baseball-reference.com with spreading the stories of some of these grand old players. When I used baseball-reference.com 30 years ago, high schools were not listed.
Here was my all-time Oklahoma team then, with a criterion of being raised here. I don’t care about place of birth. And remember, this was 1993.
Outfielders: Mickey Mantle, Commerce; Paul Waner, Harrah; Lloyd Waner, Harrah.
First base: Joe Carter, Millwood (I fudged; Carter made 275 career starts at first, out of 2,189 games played. If I had it to do over, I would suck it up and put Carter in the outfield, battling with Lloyd Waner for a starting spot, and someone else at first base.
Second base: Johnny Ray, Chouteau.
Third base: Pepper Martin, Oklahoma City.
Shortstop: U.L. Washington, Stringtown.
Catcher: Johnny Bench, Binger.
Starting pitchers: Carl Hubbell, Meeker; Allie Reynolds, Capitol Hill; Harry Brecheen, Ada; Carl Mays, Kingfisher; Bullet Joe Rogan, Oklahoma City (much of the Negro League star’s biographical information is spotty; I interviewed his son, who could not fill in all the cracks. I found one source that said Rogan left OKC for Kansas City at age 19, but baseball-reference.com lists KC’s Sumner High School as Rogan’s alma mater. He might be ineligible for this team with a redo).
Relief pitchers: Lindy McDaniel, Arnett-Hollis; Wilcy Moore (Hollis); Al Brazle (Sickles); Al Benton (Wayne); Frank Linzy (Porter).
Backup infielders: Newt Joseph (Muskogee).
Backup outfielders: Dale Mitchell (Cloud Chief); Rip Radcliff (Kiowa); Don Demeter (Capitol Hill); Bobby Murcer (Southeast).
Catchers: Darrell Porter (Southeast); Mickey Tettleton (Southeast).
A new all-time Oklahoma Team probably is called for. J.T. Reamulto, Matt Holliday, Matt Kemp, Josh Fields, Dallas Keuchel, Mike Moore. Lots of deserving guys have come along in the last 30 years.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: HBCU basketball: Langston Lions go from 1-27 to NAIA title contender