A day before beginning a season it hopes will end with a trip to the Final Four, Baylor did its best to ensure a bright future with the signing of three top-level prospects to National Letters of Intent on Wednesday.
All three of the Lady Bears’ signees are ranked in the top 40 in the nation by ESPN’s Hoopgurlz, including the top recruit in the nation in 6-foot-4 forward Lauren Cox from Flower Mound. The class also included guards Natalie Chou from Plano West, the eighth-rated recruit, and Calveion “Juicy”Landrum from La Vega, who is No. 40.
The 5-foot-9 Landrum was the Super Centex Player of the Year as a sophomore in leading the Lady Pirates to an undefeated record and state championship and was a first-team selection as a junior while helping La Vega reach the state semifinals. She averaged 14.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game last season.
She selected Baylor over Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State.
“Juicy committed to us over a year ago.When you can get local products to stay at home it speaks volumes,” Mulkey said. “She comes from a very good high school basketball program and I’m glad that her local fans will be able to get to see her play. After having watched her for many years, it will be exciting to finally see her don the green and gold. Juicy is an athletic combo-guard with a scorer’s mentality who can penetrate or distribute the ball.”
The Baylor women’s basketball team just got a whole lot juicier — and that’s a really good thing.
“We’ve put together a recruiting class that on paper is going to be highly regarded,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said in a statement. “But as I always say, it really doesn’t matter about the number in front of their name. Even if those kids didn’t have a number in front of their name I would still recruit them, because I’ve watched them enough to know how good they are and what they can do for our program. We’ve won national championships here with players that didn’t come to us with a number in front of their name and we’ve won them with players that were highly ranked. It brings great recognition when they are highly ranked, but it doesn’t win championships. The players win the championships.”
The Lady Bears’ class was ranked second to Maryland, which brought in six players.
Cox averaged 21.7 points, 15.3 points and 5.4 blocks as a junior to held Flower Mound to a 28-8 record and its first-ever state tournament appearance.
She has also won three gold medals in international play while competing for USA Basketball’s U16, U17 and U19 teams and committed to Baylor on Oct. 25. She chose the Lady Bears over other top programs in Connecticut, Notre Dame and Tennessee.
“What’s most impressive about Lauren Cox is the type of person she is and the type of family she comes from,” Mulkey said. “Lauren is a very sharp, intelligent and versatile player, her basketball skills speak for themselves. Through her three stints with USA Basketball she has been all around the world and won three gold medals. When she came here on the visit we had no idea she would commit while on campus. That caught us all by surprise.”
As it turns out, Lauren Cox saved the best for last.
Over the years, two of the top commits in the Baylor 2016 women’s basketball class in Lauren…
The 6-1 Chou averaged 22.0 points and 4.8 rebounds per game in leading Plano West to a 30-5 mark and regional final run in the 6A playoffs – where it fell to Cox and Flower Mound.
Chou teamed with Cox in the FIBA U17 World Championships and won a gold medal, and she also grabbed a silver in this year’s U18 3-on-3 World Championships. She picked Baylor over California, Texas and UCLA.
“On the perimeter Natalie can play all three positions,” Mulkey said. “If you need her to shoot it she can shoot it. If you need her to handle it, she can handle it. Natalie can rebound and post up as well. As with Lauren and Juicy, family is important to her. Her mother (Quanli Li), who played for the Chinese national team is her personal trainer, is a basketball junkie and has taught Natalie the game. What’s also impressive is that every year I have watched her play she has developed another part of her game.”
Baylor will open its season at 6 p.m. Friday, hosting Texas-Arlington in the first round of the WNIT at the Ferrell Center.