While the Oklahoma and Oklahoma State men’s basketball programs dealt with rebuilding seasons, all attention should be on fellow state schools Langston University and the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO), which had historically successful 2022-23 regular season campaigns and are poised and ready to make deep postseason runs in March.
Langston is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Division I ranks and is one of the top teams in the league, which is remarkable considering the school’s one-win finish the year before. The Lions are led by head coach Chris Wright, who, in his first season, has made a significant impact.
UCO is a member of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA) of the NCAA’s Division II ranks and finished one of its best seasons in more than 35 years.
Both programs have done a masterful job this season on the court while also working to promote their successes, but Oklahoma drops the ball by having too narrow a focus. The state’s attention tends to stay fixed on the Sooners, Cowboys or Oklahoma City Thunder. Meanwhile, both the third-largest school in the state and the only HBCU in Oklahoma receive little or no attention.
As UCO makes a massive push for the DII tournament, it’s important to highlight what the school is doing athletically. It’s all about marketing and putting UCO’s name in conversations. You may have seen something on Facebook or Twitter from the Bronchos’ sports information director, Chris Brannick, boasting that UCO’s wrestling, softball, tennis and basketball programs were all listed in the nation’s top 10. Yet, there was no coverage of that in major newspapers or on news stations.
As for Langston, we should do a better job highlighting the accomplishments of our only HBCU. If you thought UCO was an afterthought in Oklahoma athletics, Langston isn’t even a topic, and that needs to change.
One of Central Oklahoma’s DI transfers, Curtis Haywood II, spent his first two seasons at Georgia Tech after winning a Class 6A state title at Mustang High School. He went two seasons at Tulsa and has transferred that big-school experience to UCO, which makes the team so exciting to watch. Who surrounds Haywood? A collection of experienced and young talent from around the country mixed with some young, homegrown kids from the OKC metro area makes for a successful program — not to mention having a legendary head coach, Bob Hoffman, at the helm.
As of Jan. 25, Langston ranked No. 3 in the NAIA Coaches’ Top 25 Poll, and the team leads the league in net efficiency, which is the difference between how many points a team scores and how many they allow in 100 possessions. Players Tristan Harper, AJ Rainey, D’Monte Brown and Cortez Mosley have led the push for the Lions’ NAIA dominance.
Although Langston and UCO likely won’t receive the recognition OU and OSU receive, the two schools mean a great deal to the fiber of Oklahoma, and their meteoric rises to the tops of their conferences should be celebrated.