By Nathan Keil, Lariat sports writer
Landing some of the top recruits in the country is not unfamiliar territory to women’s basketball Head Coach Kim. In fact, the passion she emits and the team’s success on the court helps bring top recruits to Baylor. However, it is never any less exciting when she lands one of the nation’s top recruits. In this case, 6’4, McDonald’s All-American Lauren Cox.
Mulkey recalls when she found out the news while Cox was in the middle of her photo shoot as a part of her official visit to Baylor.
“I went down there, and Lauren’s mom and dad jumped in the photo, and they asked me to jump in there, too. Then, when Lauren told me she was committing, I was stunned,” Mulkey said in an ESPN interview.
As Lauren Cox begins her career in the Baylor green and gold in November, it marks a new era in her young and promising career, as well as a nod of respect to Mulkey and her program.
This will not be the first time Cox will dawn the color gold across her chest. In fact, it almost seems second nature to her, as she recently returned from Valdivia, Chile, after winning the gold medal at the 2016 FIBA America U18 Championships. This latest victory marks her fourth gold medal for Team USA in recent world competition. She previously won gold at the 2015 U19 World Championships in Russia, 2014 U17 World Championships in the Czech Republic and the 2013 U16 FIBA Americas in Mexico.
Although she is a seasoned veteran in international tournaments, each experience is different and something that Cox knows not to take for granted.
“It’s always a really great experience, getting to represent my country and wear USA across my chest, and it’s a great feeling to win gold,” Cox said.
Not only has Cox been able to display her patriotism and represent Team USA the past four summers, but she has also played for various coaches and with other top recruits entering the college game today, each offering her fresh, innovative perspectives on how to continue to grow and flourish on the court.
“It teaches me to be more coachable because there have been different coaches every year, so you have to adjust to their coaching style, and also getting to play with different people ever year, it’s taught me to adjust with them,” Cox said.
Cox has found an incredible amount of success on the international level at such a young age. She learned valuable lessons about herself and about the game through her experiences.
“International play is a lot more physical,” Cox said. “They’re a lot bigger; the refs really let you play. You get stronger, and you learn a lot from that.”
She plans to use this experience and success as she now transitions into Big 12 basketball and Mulkey’s system at Baylor.
Cox will have her work cut out for her entering her freshman year, as Baylor is only losing one starter from a team that went to the Elite Eight in March.
“It’s one of my goals to start playing my freshman year, so I’ve really been working hard, and we have some really good post players on this team, so I’m really going to have to work hard this pre-season. But I’m really looking forward to it,” Cox said. “I think we’re going to have a really good team next year. We have some good seniors to lead us, as well as some really good returners, so I’m excited about that.”
Learning to embrace challenges and face adversity head-on is part of the process of competing at the highest level. Cox is not one to back down from a challenge, having defeated a tough Russian team in its backyard last summer. It begins by developing a relentless work ethic on and off the court and recognizing strengths and how to fit into a team’s system.
Cox certainly knows her strengths and believes she can contribute to this Baylor team. In Chile, she found herself playing both the forward and center position, showing her ability to impact the game from both spots.
“A lot of my points came in transition, running the floor and grabbing offensive rebounds,” Cox said.
In a semifinal matchup with Brazil, Cox’s size and versatility were on full display.
“Having Lauren Cox back was huge for us with their size inside. She challenged shots, rebounded and had a presence on the block,” said USA Head Coach Suzie McConnell-Serio in an interview is USA Basketball.
Cox led the USA in both scoring and rebounding this summer at 13.0 points and 10.3 rebounds. Her ability to score and rebound from multiple positions, as well as her leadership, will be great assets for the Lady Bears this season.
Cox and the Lady Bears begin their season with an exhibition against Emporia State on Nov. 1 at the Ferrell Center.