Four-time state champion, All-District MVP, MAIS Player of the Year and All-District Honoree are just a few of the many accolades that Southwest Mississippi Community College freshman basketball player Sydni Tangle has garnered in her playing career. But there is a personal one that holds a special place in her heart.
Tangle was crowned the 2018-19 Choctaw Indian Princess, an honor given to a young lady in the tribe at their annual fair, held every July. She admits, though, that being crowned Choctaw Princess wasn’t something that she originally had her sights set on.
“Because basketball has been a big part of my life, I was a tomboy when I was younger,” she said. “Pageants weren’t really my thing, but I always loved watching them. Every year I grew up watching them and I am still in awe of them.”
It wasn’t until the summer before her junior year of high school when Tangle decided to enter the running. “I remember the year before I decided to run, I was in training,” she said. “One of my mom’s good friends, he worked on the pageant committee, so he knew what the judges looked for. The year before I decided to run, I remember just watching it and something just went over me and I was like, ‘I think that I want to do that.’ “
Part of Tangle’s training required her to leave her comfort zone. “Before this, I was a really shy person and I never really liked being outspoken or public speaking,” she said. Tangle added that her training also had her talking to strangers to better her people skills. Another aspect is being familiar with the history of the Choctaw tribe.
“A lot of it was knowing the back history of my tribe and being able to tell people about it,” she said. “Of course, we are a minority and some people still don’t know that Native Americans exist. Just being able to explain about my culture is a big part of it.”
Even though basketball has been a sport she has been involved in since the age of 5, some of the skills that she learned as princess has helped her on the court. One important quality that she learned while princess that she still uses to this day is how to be a leader.
“I think that it really helped the leadership aspect,” she said. “Not only representing the tribe but being on the court, being the person to lead by example or encouraging others and trying to be more outspoken.”
As a bench player this year for the Bears, she is fourth on the team in scoring with 7.3 points per game, shooting 41-percent from the field and 40-percent from beyond the 3-point arc. Playing for SMCC, she has also had the opportunity the share the court with her aunt Taylor Ben — who is less than a month older.
Looking back on the year as princess, it has been very rewarding for Tangle, the daughter of Jimmy Tangle and Diana and Liasha Alex.
The Carthage native and Leake Academy alumna said that she represented the band of her tribe in Mississippi which has about 11,000 members. The Mississippi band is one of only two in the U.S., with the other being in Oklahoma.
“Each tribe has their own princess and throughout my reign, I got to travel throughout the U.S. to Albuquerque, N.M., where they have the biggest pow wow in North America.”
In addition to teaching her new skills in basketball, being princess has been beneficial for Tangle at SMCC in general. “The princess responsibility has opened a lot of doors for me,” she said. “Over here on campus they have the Bear Trackers, which had an interview process. Just being able to add that to my resume and being able to tell them what all that consists of, it grabs peoples’ attention.”