By RANDY GONZALES
For Hays Post
Big things are happening for the family of a local former star basketball player – which shouldn’t seem out of the ordinary, since her family grows like Redwood trees.
Brenda (Bruggeman) Cox, a 1987 graduate of Hays High School and the star center on the Indian girls’ basketball team during her high school days, was a 6-foot-2 mountain in the middle for HHS. A three-year starter for the Indians, Brenda led her team to a third-place finish at state her senior year.
Brenda, now the mom of four tall, athletic daughters, is getting ready to watch her oldest play in the Big 12 basketball tournament, which begins today in Oklahoma City. Lauren Cox, a 6-4 junior forward, starts for the Baylor Bears.
Brenda’s parents – Mel and Karen Bruggeman from Hays – also will make the trip south to watch their granddaughter play.
Baylor (28-1 overall, 18-0 Big 12) is ranked No. 1 in the nation in the latest Associated Press poll. The Bears are on a 20-game winning streak and are one of only two teams to defeat national power Connecticut this season.
Baylor is the No. 1 seed in the Big 12 tourney and will play its first game at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, vs. the winner of today’s game between Oklahoma and Texas Tech. Saturday’s game will be televised on FSN. The semifinals are Sunday, with the championship game Monday night. The semifinals and title game will be shown on FS1.
Brenda said her family will attend Laura’s games in person starting Sunday. On Saturday, they will be watching one of her other siblings play in a volleyball tournament.
Lauren’s younger sisters are: Whitney, a 6-0 forward and a high school senior who has committed to play at Lubbock Christian next year; Kaylee, a 6-1 sophomore whose volleyball team won the Texas Class 6A state title; and Maddie, a 6-1 eighth-grader who plays both basketball and volleyball.
Brenda’s husband, Dennis, is 6-4; he also played basketball in college, at Central Methodist in Missouri.
Brenda followed in her father’s footsteps in taking her talents to the college level. Mel played basketball for St. Mary of the Plains College in Dodge City. Brenda played at Dodge City Community College for two years, then transferred to Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
She met her husband, a software developer, in Dallas after her playing days at SMU. These days, Brenda is a stay-at-home mom who stays busy keeping up with her daughters’ athletic events.
Watching Lauren play on a national stage has been a treat for the family.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Brenda said. “It’s kind of unbelievable. When you have a child you think they will play sports, but she’s kind of a special athlete, a lot of God-given talent.”
Lauren was the nation’s No. 1-ranked player coming out of high school her senior year. She narrowed her college choices to Connecticut, Tennessee, Louisville, Notre Dame and Baylor.
“She pretty much had the option to go wherever she wanted,” Brenda said. “Those programs are all class acts, great coaches. I think it really came down to (playing) close to home.”
The drive to Waco for the Coxes to catch Lauren’s home games is about an hour and 45 minutes. Brenda and her husband also travel back to Kansas to watch Lauren’s games when Baylor plays at Kansas State and the University of Kansas.
The Bruggemans are diehard Baylor fans. They traded in their Buick Enclave with more than 200,000 miles on it for a 2017 model that already has traveled 40,000 miles to basketball games.
It’s no surprise that Brenda’s children are tall. The family tree has long limbs. Her dad, who played basketball at St. Mary of the Plains College in Dodge City, is 6-4, and her mom is 5-11. Brenda is the youngest of three Bruggeman children. Her older sister, Rhonda, is 6-0, and her brother, Mark, is 6-4.
“I really feel short with (Brenda’s) girls so tall,” Karen said with a laugh. “It’s been wonderful (watching Lauren play). It keeps us young.”
The Bruggemans are used to hitting the road to watch women’s college basketball. It was a relatively short drive when Brenda was playing for DCCC. But when she went to SMU, the couple would leave Hays after work on Friday, drive eight hours to Dallas for a game Saturday night, then drive back to Kansas on Sunday.
Laura (Flax) Hertel, a senior on the Hays High girls’ basketball team in 1985 when Brenda was a sophomore, is part of a group of former teammates and friends who gather in Manhattan when Baylor plays at Kansas State.
“She has quite the little following at those games,” Hertel said.
Hertel also remembers how dominating Brenda was inside the paint for the Indians.
“She was just a huge presence inside,” Hertel said. “By the time she got to be a senior, she was just amazing.”
Lauren has had an amazing first three years at Baylor. She is averaging 12.1 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.4 blocks per game for the Bears. In Monday’s 63-57 win at West Virginia which capped an undefeated Big 12 regular season, Lauren recorded her 24th career double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds while playing all 40 minutes.
“Lauren played her heart out,” said Karen, who watched the game on television. “She doesn’t like to lose.”
Lauren was an honorable mention AP All-American in 2018. She was selected to the Big 12 first team, was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and made the Academic All-Big 12 First Team.
Lauren has excelled in sports despite being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 7 years old. Daily insulin injections became part of her regimen as she managed the disease. At Baylor, the trainers have helped her manage the disease, and Bears coach Kim Mulkey recommended Lauren use her diabetes as a platform to inspire others. Lauren helps out with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and Brenda said it is not unusual for Lauren and her family to hear from young athletes with diabetes from all across the country.
“She has really become a role model for young type 1 diabetics,” Brenda said, adding that her daughter’s name often comes up in search results on the Internet about athletes with diabetes.
This weekend, Lauren and her Baylor teammates will be searching for a Big 12 championship.