Baylor star Lauren Cox hasn't let diabetes stop her WNBA dreams

WNBA Mock Draft Basketball
Baylor forward Lauren Cox will likely be a top-three pick in the WNBA draft on Friday. (Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press)

It was one of the only things Lauren Cox was allowed to do. With the world closing down as the novel coronavirus swept through, the Baylor forward enjoyed her regular trip to the grocery store with her mother.

Now Cox, whose Type 1 Diabetes puts her at high risk for complications from the virus, can’t even have that. Her parents just want to be extra careful.

“It’s a little bit scary,” Cox said, “but we’re not living in fear.”

Whether winning a national championship or fighting through global pandemic, the Big 12 Player of the Year has never let fear hold her back. After being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at 7 years old, Cox is prepared to realize a life-long dream in Friday’s WNBA draft.

Cox could go as high as No. 2 to her hometown Dallas Wings after Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu, who is the New York Liberty’s likely No. 1 pick.

Averaging 12.5 points and 8.4 rebounds per game this year, Cox was the fourth player in program history to be selected as an All-American from four different organizations in the same season. She earned first-team honors from the Associated Press, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association and the John Wooden Team.

Baylor finished third in the Associated Press rankings after the COVID-19 pandemic put an abrupt end to the season on March 12. Unable to defend the national championship, Cox said she cried for several days after the decision. She’s thankful she didn’t have to lose the WNBA draft, too, which was moved to a virtual format amid the pandemic.

“They’re doing the best that they can to still make it fun for us and give us a good experience,” said Cox, who spent much of Thursday morning in virtual meetings with ESPN to ensure the network had the right camera angles lined up from inside her home. “This is something a lot of us have dreamed about since we were little girls and started playing basketball, so I’m just excited and thankful.”

Baylor forward Lauren Cox catches a pass in front of Iowa State guard Ashley Joens during a game in March.
Baylor forward Lauren Cox catches a pass in front of Iowa State guard Ashley Joens during a game in March. (Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press)

Cox became one of the most decorated players in Baylor history while playing with a continuous glucose monitor in her arm and an insulin pump attached to her hip. She learned to manage her diabetes using apps on her phone that alerted her to irregular levels of sugar in her blood.

Type 1 Diabetes, unlike Type 2, which can develop over time due to unhealthy habits, is an autoimmune disease in which the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, a hormone necessary for regulating blood sugar. Along with people over 65, those with underlying medical conditions like lung disease, heart conditions or diabetes are at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

With Cox and her younger sister Whitney both managing Type 1 Diabetes, the family stays away from large crowds. They wash their hands regularly. Cox said her father, Dennis, encouraged both her and Whitney, a freshman on Lubbock Christian University’s basketball team, to give up the grocery store runs, instead deferring to their parents or younger sisters Kaylee and Maddie.

But Cox hasn’t let the loss of trips to the grocery store slow her preparations for the draft. She and Whitney still find hills to sprint and outdoor courts to shoot on. When Cox interviews with prospective WNBA teams via Zoom or FaceTime, she proudly tells them of her passion of advocating for diabetes awareness.

“I want to show people that they can do anything they want to do, regardless of diabetes or not,” Cox said. “It’s just a huge part of my life.”