Lauren Gustin shoots a free throw against Pepperdine on Feb. 4. She had a career-high 27 points and 20 rebounds against the Waves at the Marriott Center. (Preston Crawley)

Lauren Gustin is ‘just getting started’ for BYU women’s basketball

Six-foot-one Lauren Gustin has exploded out of nowhere in her first season with the Cougars, setting records and earning conference player of the week honors.

The player

Gustin’s basketball career started when she was just four years old. Kids are usually learning colors, basic shapes and remembering what happened the day before at that age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But Gustin was doing more.

“I’ve always known basketball and I’ve always known I wanted to play after high school,” Gustin said.

She was named the West Coast Conference Player of the Week on Jan. 18, just 10 games into her BYU career, after an impressive performance against Saint Mary’s.

“I was a little taken aback by it,” Gustin said. “But I think it was good for our team to get some attention too.”

Teammate Tahlia White posted Gustin’s Player of the Week announcement on her Instagram story and wrote, “She is just getting started.”

That statement is ringing true as Gustin continues to improve and reach milestones, including scoring 27 points and bringing down 20 rebounds against Pepperdine on Feb. 4.

BYU has not seen that from a women’s basketball player in the Marriott Center since the 1979-80 season.

“I want (the team) to really be able to rely on me for rebounds and that toughness,” Gustin said.

Gustin is ranked second in the nation this season in rebounds per game at 13.2 and tied for 19th in total double-doubles with eight.

“I’m definitely not the tallest or biggest player, but I have to be able to bring that presence even with my size inside,” Gustin said. “I also have to run the court hard and be a reliable defender.”

Gustin is from Salem, Utah, just 25 minutes from Provo. BYU head coach Jeff Judkins and her teammates say she is a “beast.”

“I couldn’t have asked for a better team to be around me, the coaching staff, and the location too, to be so close to home,” Gustin said. “So yes I think it’s a great fit I feel like for sure.”

She said BYU has been what she always hoped for. Though Gustin never had a dream school, she knew she wanted to play Division I basketball.

Gustin got to BYU an unconventional way. She redshirted last year after she transferred from Salt Lake Community College (SLCC), following a semester at the University of Idaho where she started her college career. Gustin was an NJCAA All-America Honorable Mention and averaged 19.1 points and 13.1 rebounds at SLCC.

“It was hard having to sit out, not being able to travel with the team, and go on the road to have that bonding experience,” Gustin said. “So that was definitely something I had to overcome.”

COVID-19 has also brought some challenges for Gustin. The game on Feb. 2 against WCC rival Gonzaga was her first game in almost three weeks because of games being canceled and contracting the virus herself.

“It’s been hard to get in the flow of things and get in a good rhythm,” she said. “Hopefully from here on out, we won’t have any more cancelations.”

The family

“I just started playing when I was a little kid, and I haven’t really stopped since then,” Gustin said.

Her mother, Scarlett Overly Gustin, played at BYU from 1987-89, where she was an All-Conference honoree before she transferred to Wyoming and married football player John Gustin.

“I think it’s cool to follow her footsteps a little bit,” Gustin said. “It’s a fun atmosphere with all the history here.”

Gustin’s father played basketball in high school and coached her for a time, which she said was great. Her older brother, Porter Gustin, always played basketball growing up, and is now a defensive end for the Cleveland Browns in the NFL.

“It’s always been in the family,” Gustin said of the hoops tradition.

The team

Jared Wilkey
The BYU women’s basketball team poses for a group photo prior to the 2020-21 season, with Gustin (12) right in the middle. The team’s chemistry is evident on and off the court in how they play with and talk about one another. (BYU Photo)

BYU’s chemistry is as solid off the court as it is on the court, and Gustin said they are all very welcoming.

Gustin and sophomore guard Shaylee Gonzales were teammates previously at Mesquite High School in Gilbert, Arizona, before Gustin’s family moved to Utah, where she finished high school.

“We definitely all get along, a lot,” Gustin said. “I think it’s been super helpful especially for Tegan (Graham) being new this year and Kayla (Belles-Lee). They just gel really well with us because we are always doing stuff together.”

She said they like watching The Bachelor together on the road, and before games, she and her coaches will say a prayer before a game to calm the nerves.  

“I love just being with the team, knowing that we have each other’s back and sometimes it’s been hard on the road when we are gone for a week or so,” Gustin said. “Just having each other, we get through it.”

Gustin is excited for the rest of the season and looks forward to playing Gonzaga again and getting to the NCAA Tournament. She is hopeful the Cougars can make it and said it would be her first time in the “Big Dance.”

“I think it’s exciting to know that we can be even better and I think our team still has a lot that we can accomplish and improve on,” Gustin said.

BYU is set to play 12 games February and will play for the second time against league-leading Gonzaga at the Marriot Center on Feb. 18 at 6 p.m.

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