Catching Up With Four-time USA Gold Medalist Lauren Cox
When Lauren Cox committed to play basketball at Baylor University, she understood that breaking into a traditionally loaded Bears’ lineup was not going to be a walk in the park.
But, that’s exactly what she wanted.
Cox is from Flower Mound, Texas, which is just 120 miles from Baylor’s campus in Waco. She took all five of her official visits with Baylor being her last, a place that she said “felt like home.”
Since arriving, though, it has been anything but easy for Cox, who came in as the country’s top ranked forward and number two overall recruit by ESPN HoopGurlz.
“I didn't want to go somewhere where I was going to jump right in and be averaging 20-plus minutes a game,” said Cox.
“I wanted to go somewhere that was going to challenge me every single day against my own teammates, and outside of practice – play against some of the best teams in the country.”
Baylor has swept the regular season and Big 12 Conference Tournament titles for six-straight years, while also winning at least 30 games in each of those seasons. Committing to head coach Kim Mulkey and the Bears’ program certainly was the top local option to seriously test Cox, as the Bears returned four starters from a team that went 36-2 in 2015-16.
One of those starters, playing at the forward position, is 5-foot-11 Nina Davis. Cox is five inches taller at 6-foot-4, but Davis is a two-time consensus All-American, a senior and has more than 2,000 points in her Baylor career. While Cox has not benefitted from extensive playing time, she has learned the ropes from one of the all-time Baylor greats.
“I have really learned a lot from Nina. She is a great leader, a great player for our team and just a really good example,” said Cox. “The other post players we have, too, they have all helped me throughout this process and transition.”
In the Bears’ fifth game of the season, Cox broke out with a 21-point, nine-rebound effort in just 15 minutes of action against the University of Southeastern Louisiana. She scored in double figures again, 15 points, three days later en route to her first recognition as Big 12 Conference Freshman of the Week on Nov. 28.
However, over the course of the next five games, Cox struggled to find her place on the floor. She played a shade under 11 minutes per game in that span and averaged 5 points a contest, and that was uncharacteristic for her, to say the least.
“In that stretch, I wasn’t really playing my game. I wasn’t hitting my shots and I wasn’t comfortable on the court,” she noted.
“At first, I think I just placed a lot of pressure on myself, because when I would get in, I wasn’t playing very well. I was just disappointed in myself.”
Since her rough patch of games, Cox said she has settled in, recognizing her role and, “doing what she needs to do,” while trying to make the most of her minutes.
She drew media attention in a Dec. 6 contest against Texas State University, after she showcased her undeniable length by swatting an opposing 3-point attempt over the Baylor bench and into the first row of the stands.
And then, on Dec. 15, 2016, she made her first career start. Cox was 10-of-16 from the floor as she dropped a career-high 23 points, grabbed eight rebounds and added four blocks against Winthrop University in a game that saw flashes of brilliance and incredible potential from the highly touted forward.
“I had a lot of energy that game. My teammates were getting me the ball. It all felt really good, and that’s when I just finally realized I needed to calm down and play my game,” said Cox, who is coming off consecutive double-figure outings after dropping 19 points against Texas Christian University and following it up with a 13-point, nine rebound night on the road at the University of Kansas on Jan. 15.
The following day, she was recognized with her third Big 12 Freshman of the Week honor. In Baylor’s six Big 12 games, she’s third on the Bears’ roster averaging 11.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game as the Big 12 frontrunners already are off to a 6-0 start in conference play and sit at 17-1 overall.
Her more recent college success, she attributes to her experience and growth on the international level with USA Basketball.
“Playing against teams overseas, the game is very physical and the game is a lot faster. I think that really prepared me for what I’m taking on right now in college,” said Cox, who noted that the pace and physicality were major learning factors when she got to Baylor.
On July 17, 2016, Cox claimed her fourth gold medal with USA Basketball, this time with the USA U18 Women’s National Team at the 2016 FIBA Americas U18 Championship.
Cox was injured in practice before the team even departed for tournament play in Valdivia, Chile, but only sat out the USA U18s opener of action. When she entered the lineup, she scored in double figures in all four of her appearances, including posting her tournament-high of 15 points and nine rebounds in the 109-62 gold medal win over Canada.
“I knew once I was healthy, that I was going to come back and do whatever I could to win that gold medal, and it was awesome,” she said.
She paced the USA U18s in both scoring (13.0) and rebounding (10.3) and also had a team-best 14 blocks as she was named tournament MVP, her first such honor despite having won gold with the USA U16, U17 and U19 national teams in recent past.
With previous experience at the international level and as one of six USA U18 players enrolled at a university in the fall, Cox was looked to as a vocal leader on a team rounded out by six rising high school seniors.
“It was great being one of the oldest and someone that my teammates looked to if they needed advice. I knew I had the most experience on that team, so I knew coming into it, that I was kind of going to be the leader and show my teammates that had not been on a USA team, kind of, what it is all about.”
But at Baylor, that’s not so much the case for Cox. Her role is not limited, but it is still in the early stages of development as her average of 13.3 minutes per game is seventh in the Bears’ lineup.
“Even now, even though I am one of the youngest players here at Baylor, I like to think of myself as a vocal leader, because I talk a lot on the court and I encourage people in practice.
I am here to do whatever I can to help my team win, whether that is on the court, scoring, rebounding, or on the bench, cheering on my teammates. Team-wise, we want to win the national championship.”