Lauren Cox’s parents didn’t need much, if any, of a primer on Baylor’s program when it came time for their daughter, the nation’s No. 1 high school basketball recruit, to choose a college in 2015.
Their own research and knowledge of the game – both her father, Dennis, and mother, Brenda, are former college basketball players – told them mostly what they needed to know.
One of the catches to landing the 6-foot-4 forward from Flower Mound would come in a curveball of a question from Brenda Cox to Baylor coach Kim Mulkey during the in-home visit.
And it was something that Mulkey, in almost two decades at Baylor, had likely never heard.
Brenda Cox wanted to know what Mulkey would do if Baylor was playing for a championship and Lauren, a Type 1 diabetic since she was seven years old, was playing well but her blood-sugar levels were bad.
Mulkey didn’t hesitate.
“She doesn’t play,” she told them.
In typical Mulkey fashion, those words have quickly turned into actions with Cox, who comes off the bench and averages 9.7 points and 4.9 rebounds for No. 2 Baylor (20-1, 9-0 Big 12) headed into Sunday’s game at the Ferrell Center against No. 20 Oklahoma (16-5, 7-2).
That’s because Baylor’s third straight game against a ranked opponent will serve as Cox’s first opportunity to use basketball as a platform for something bigger when it comes to her disease – something Mulkey has encouraged her to do all season – with Baylor hosting Type 1 Diabetes Awareness Night.
Fans will be able to interact with Cox, only the second No. 1 recruit to sign with Baylor after Brittney Griner 2009, on the court after the game.
“I think it’s awesome,” Mulkey said. “Lauren can be like a spokesperson for little kids. It’s not something to hide ... you can be role model for a lot of kids here that have diabetes. They see this kid playing at a high level and dealing with it.”
In order to keep her diabetes in check, Cox has to prick her finger to check her blood sugar six to 10 times per day, has an infusion site on her body for an insulin pump that has to be changed every other day and wears a glucose monitor that has to be changed every other week — and has actually come off during a game before.
“It’s super hard, and it’s an every single day responsibility you have to stay on top of,” Cox said. “Sunday is really important to me to just show kids they can do whatever they want, regardless of the disease.”
Baylor’s medical and training staff can monitor Cox’s blood-sugar levels — to a point — and Brenda Cox’s question to Mulkey during the recruiting process was put to an early test when the Lady Bears traveled to Tennessee on Dec. 4.
In pregame, Mulkey was informed that Cox’s levels were dangerously high after her monitor wasn’t attached until the morning of the game and the readings didn’t come in until right before the scheduled 1 p.m. start.
“I said ‘She’s not gonna play until it goes down,’ and it was because the night before she didn’t have something attached she was supposed to,” Mulkey said. “In high school and during her entire life, her parents have taught her to do it herself and she has done that ... but now I’m responsible for these kids and their health.”
Cox’s response to Mulkey’s decision wasn’t much different from how she plays — fierce.
“She had a meltdown,” Mulkey said.
“Yep, meltdown,” senior forward Nina Davis said.
“It made me really emotional,” Cox said.
Cox eventually got in that game — once her blood-sugar levels went down — and seems to get better every time she steps on the court. She’s coming off her first career double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds in Wednesday’s 91-49 win at No. 25 Kansas State, and now she’ll be counted on even more with sophomore forward Beatrice Mompremier nursing a sprained ankle.
And maybe, through her play, Cox can eventually tap into something bigger than the game itself.
“I want kids (with diabetes) to know they can do whatever they want,” Cox said. “Some doctors will tell them ‘Oh, you just have to watch what you do,’ but I want them to know they can do whatever they want, regardless of if they have Type 1 diabetes.”