Standing on the court inside the Ferrell Center, dribbling from her right to her left hand, it doesn’t take Juicy Landrum long to describe her basketball journey. Not that it’s coming near an end.
Landrum’s only a sophomore and is playing her best basketball right now for No. 3 Baylor. But that’s what makes this so special.
She’s awed and inspired people on the hardwood, from when she first started playing basketball at the Waco YMCA to leading La Vega to three straight trips to the state tournament in Austin and a state title her sophomore season to signing at the local university and now stepping into a new role as a starter, Landrum is just getting started. And she knows it.
Landrum smiled when asked how she would describe her basketball career so far and quickly answered smooth.
Smooth like your shot or smooth like the transition from level to level?
“Both,” Landrum answered with a smile.
No arguing with that.
She’s is in range whenever she steps on the court. Landrum’s known for sinking half court shots before every game.
Landrum admits it takes her three or four times to get the money shot. When you make such a big time shot so many times, the celebration isn’t as epic as you might think.
“I mean, me and Didi (Richards) might chest bump,” Landrum said. “That’s about it.”
But when it comes to how she’s adapted her game from level to level, it’s been pretty smooth there, too.
She was on La Vega’s varsity as a freshman and remained head and shoulders better than her competition all four years as a Pirate. As a sophomore, Landrum led La Vega to a 35-0 record and the Class 3A championship as she averaged 17.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 4.3 steals per game.
“That’s maybe my biggest accolade in high school,” Landrum said. “It was great. It was the best feeling, going up there and getting to hold the trophy and then getting named MVP. Seeing my coach smile, I know that’s something she always wanted. It was great.”
Landrum led La Vega back to the state tournament her junior and senior seasons as she put up 14.3 points per game as a junior and 22.8 points per game but the Pirates fell short of adding another title.
“I matured a lot during that time,” Landrum said. “It helped get me ready for college.”
Landrum figured she could go ahead and say it. It’s been two years since she signed her National Letter of Intent to come to Baylor.
“At first, I did not want to go to school in Texas,” Landrum said. “I didn’t want to go to Baylor even though I knew then that coach Mulkey is one of the greatest coaches in basketball. But then things changed when I started watching Baylor play. I came to a few games when they were recruiting me. When I took my visit, it was like coming home. I knew this was where I wanted to be.”
While Baylor felt like the perfect fit for Landrum, it was the Lady Bears’ head coach Kim Mulkey that solidified her decision to stay close to home and attend Baylor.
“I mean, I want to win,” Landrum said. “I want to win championships. I know she can get me there.”
Landrum was part of last season’s Big 12 regular season championship, but it wasn’t always easy for her in her freshman season. She was tasked with defending Alexis Jones and Alexis Prince in practice, two WNBA first round draft picks a year ago.
“It was a bit frustrating because I’d get down on myself because every time they touched the ball they’d score,” Landrum said. “I knew they were older than me and stronger than me. I had to get some confidence.”
Look at Landrum now.
Mulkey knew it was in Landrum. She just didn’t know when it would happen for her.
Landrum is second in the Big 12 with a .440 3-point field goal percentage. She’s averaging eight points per game and has 35 assists and 20 steals on the season.
“She’s playing extremely confident because she’s lighting it up offensively,” Mulkey said. “She has great range on her 3. I don’t even know how many shots she missed in practice (Thursday). It was crazy. She was on fire. When you have confidence, it carries over to all aspects of your game.”
Landrum took her bumps and bruises as a freshman at Baylor, but she’s answered the call multiple times. As her minutes have increased this season, so has her production.
With Natalie Chou sidelined due to injury — Chou had surgery on Monday to put a pin in her scaphoid bone in her left hand — Mulkey told Landrum at the beginning of February that she would start at Texas Tech. And boy did she deliver.
“I was excited,” Landrum said. “I had the opportunity that I wanted and I showed (Mulkey) I was ready to be in the starting lineup. I took advantage of the opportunity.”
Landrum hit her first shot attempt, one taken well beyond the 3-point line, and started 8-for-8 from the floor before getting a heat check and missing her final two shot attempts. She finished with a career-high 20 points as the Lady Bears ran over the Lady Raiders.
“She’s playing on another level this year,” senior guard Kristy Wallace said. “She’s worked on her shot and things have gone well for her. That confidence she’s building, she’s done well offensively and defensively.”
Since her first career start, Landrum finished with four points against Oklahoma before going off against TCU with 15 points and eight assists. Most recently at Oklahoma State, Landrum finished with six points and three steals.
“She’s really stepped up moving into the starting lineup,” sophomore Lauren Cox said. “She has really picked up her defense. She can shoot from anywhere on the court. She has really deep range. That’s really helped us.”
Candace Parker is Landrum’s favorite player. She loves that Parker can dunk. At 5-10, Landrum joked that, “Maybe Kalani (Brown) would let me stand on her shoulders so I could reach.”
While Landrum laughs and admits she won’t ever be able to dunk, she can’t say the same thing about her defense. After guarding Jones and Prince last year and putting in extra work this season, Landrum’s defensive ability has improved immensely.
It’s what she prides herself in. Her range, sure that’s impressive. But her defensive play is what really pumps her up.
“I work on my defense a majority of the time I come into practice,” Landrum said. “I don‘t think shoot. Well, if I do shoot its for, like, five minutes. A majority of the time I work on my defense. That’s why I’ve improved so much.”
She went on to acknowledge that playing well defensively is important to stepping on the floor for Mulkey who is a defensive-minded head coach.
“I’ve been very proud of Juicy,” Mulkey said. “As you saw against TCU, she played hard defensively and got over screens. She didn’t allow herself to run into screens and get hung up where the posts had to help a lot. If we have guards who just fight and wont let themselves get screeend, it makes us better. I see so much improvement from Juicy in that area.”