2021-22 WASHINGTON WOMEN’S BASKETBALL
Coach: Tina Langley, first year
Record at Rice: 126-61, six years
UW 2020-21: 7-14 overall, 3-13 Pac-12 (11th)
Starters returning: 2
THREE PLAYERS TO WATCH
Nancy Mulkey, C, 6-9, Sr. — The Cypress, Texas, native followed Langley to Washington after starring the past three years at Rice, where she ranks first in blocked shots (3.5 per game), second in total blocks (266) and 10th in free throw percentage (.768). Last season, Mulkey averaged 15.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.5 blocks. She began her collegiate career at Oklahoma in 2016. Mulkey pulled out of the WNBA draft to return to college for her fifth season.
Haley Van Dyke, F, 6-1, Sr. — Led Washington in points per game (12.0), steals (44), minutes per game (31.9) and second in rebounds per game (5.8) while starting 20 of 21 games last season. She was named honorable mention on the All-Pac-12 and All-Pac-12 Defensive teams as a junior.
Lauren Schwartz, F, 5-11, Jr. — Another Rice transfer who started all 56 games the past two years with the Owls while averaging 11.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 30.1 minutes. Schwartz is a formidable perimeter scorer who converted 42% (42 of 100) on three-pointers last season. She also shot 50.6% from the field and averaged 13.1 points.
THREE KEYS TO THE SEASON
Get the ball to Mulkey: At 6-9, Mulkey is the tallest player in UW history. During her three years at Rice, she averaged 10.5 shots per game and set the school’s all-time field goal percentage record (.551). Last season, Mulkey averaged 11.4 attempts per game and shot 57%. Mulkey is a big target and highly skilled but getting her looks around the basket will likely be difficult because she figures to draw a lot of defensive attention. Mulkey has attempted just four three-pointers — she made three — during her career so she’s not much of a perimeter threat. On the defensive end, Mulkey should be able to dominate considering she’s the three-time Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year.
Establish an identity: Langley admitted the Huskies are dealing with a few injuries, which will affect the starting lineup and rotation. It’s also still a bit of a mystery what style and identity Langley will incorporate. Under former coach Jody Wynn, the Huskies pressed and trapped while employing a maniacal defensive assault that forced turnovers, which generated points in transition. Last season, Rice led Conference USA in scoring defense (58.9 points per game) and was sixth in offense (69.9).
What can the supporting cast bring?: Even though they haven’t played together, Mulkey, Schwartz and Van Dyke are experienced veterans who should be able to quickly form some type of chemistry. It remains to be seen what type of contributions UW will receive from its supporting cast. Langley could experiment with lineups that includes Mulkey and senior center Darcy Rees, who averaged 8.3 points last season. Newcomer Trinity Oliver, who played four years at Baylor, figures into the backcourt mix alongside senior guard Missy Peterson, who returns after missing last season due to an ACL injury.
THREE GAMES TO WATCH
Nov. 20 vs. No. 6 Louisville: Admittedly, Langley inherited most of the 2021-22 nonconference schedule. Most first-year coaches would arrange a few tune-ups before starting a grueling 20-game Pac-12 schedule. However, UW faces a big test early when No. 6 Louisville and rising star Hailey Van Lith come to town.
Nov. 25 vs. VCU: The Huskies travel to Bimini, Bahamas, for two games at the Goombay Splash starting with VCU and, two days later, North Carolina. VCU, which won the Atlantic 10 tournament title last, returns seven players, including third-leading scorer Sarah Te-Biasu (10.8 points per game).
Dec. 20 vs. Nevada: The three-game Husky Classic tips off Dec. 18 for UW, which plays Eastern Washington. However, the clash two days later against Nevada should provide a stiff challenge for the Huskies. The Wolf Pack had its best season in seven years last season while posting a 13-8 record. Nevada is led by graduate transfer Kylie Jimenez, the preseason Mountain West Newcomer of the Year, and all-conference performer Da’Ja Hamilton.
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