By Pranay Malempati | Sports Writer
The Baylor women’s basketball team entered this season as defending national champions and continued its success with a Big 12 championship and a 28-2 record entering postseason play.
However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Big 12 and NCAA cancelled the remainder of the season for all winter and spring sports. This included the women’s basketball Big 12 and national tournaments.
The news came as a shock to the Lady Bears, who had been getting ready to play in the Big 12 tournament when the news arrived. It especially affected the seniors on the team, who may have played their last game for Baylor without knowing it.
Senior star forward Lauren Cox, a finalist for the Naismith Wooden Award, said that the news was difficult to process.
“It was hard to take in,” Cox said. “A lot of emotions were going through my head. I was heartbroken.”
Cox said that other seniors on the team shared her emotions.
“We were on the airplane ready to go to Kansas City [for the Big 12 tournament],” Cox said, “and they brought us off. Me and [senior guard Juicy Landrum] started crying as we were waiting for our luggage because we didn’t know what was going to happen. We thought our careers at Baylor were over. So it was really sad, but we knew they were doing the right thing to be precautionary.”
In a statement on March 13, Lady Bears head coach Kim Mulkey said she was disappointed that the NCAA tournament was cancelled and felt bad for her seniors and grad-transfers.
“We were particularly saddened for our seniors, Lauren Cox and Juicy Landrum,” Mulkey said, “as well as our graduate transfers Te’A Cooper and Erin DeGrate. They poured their heart and soul into the program, and without knowing it, they may have played their final game on March 8.”
The NCAA is still deciding on what they will do regarding eligibility for winter and spring sport athletes who were not able to complete their seasons due to COVID-19. The NCAA Division 1 Council Committee will discuss the issue and vote on March 30.
Cox said that while she would be happy to return next season if granted an extra year of eligibility, she is trying not to get ahead of the situation.
“I don’t want to think about it until it actually happens,” Cox said, “because I don’t really want to get my hopes up. But if it happens, that would be great.”
Cox said that if this was in fact her last season and if she makes the transition to the WNBA next year, she will have a lot of positive memories from her Baylor career.
“I’ll remember all the hard work that not only me individually but that the team put in over the years,” Cox said. “I’ll remember everything Coach Mulkey taught me. She’s one of the main reasons I came to Baylor. She’s a great coach. She pushed me to be the best I could be.”