Winter in Waco, Texas.
On the Baylor University campus, many of the leaves have fallen off the trees, and the school's women's basketball team is shedding opponents inside Ferrell Center.
The Lady Bears are ranked second in the country behind the steady leadership and talent of 6-foot-4-inch senior forward Lauren Cox, who Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey described in flattering terms.
"(She's) ultra-competitive… super-intelligent IQ of the game," Mulkey said. "She sees things happen before they happen. She makes players around her better because of her passing ability and then her defensive skills and knowledge are off the charts."
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Also off the charts -- Cox's determination to play the game she loves -- but it has not come without challenges. When Cox was seven years old, she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.
"When I have a low blood sugar, I get dizzy," Cox said. "(I) just start to stare off into space. Might look at the floor, not paying attention and then when I get high, I get tired more easily. I get sluggish out on the court so you definitely tell when it's affecting me."
But one thing diabetes has not affected is Cox's attitude and she has her parents to thank for that.
"They've always been really positive and encouraging with me," the former Flower Mound High School standout said. "Especially at a young age when I didn't know if I was going to be able to keep playing soccer, basketball, volleyball, anything I wanted to do and they were always kind of there just, 'If you stay on top of it, you can do anything you want to do.'"
To help Cox stay on top of it, a continuous glucose monitor is inserted just under the skin on her left arm. Baylor team trainer Alex Olson makes sure it doesn't come dislodged during practice, and keeps a fresh supply of apple juice nearby in case Cox's blood sugar level drops.
"I like apple juice because I don't like to eat anything while I'm practicing or playing in a game, so I'd rather just drink something real quick, get back out there," Cox said.
Cox used to shy away from discussing her diabetes. She said it embarrassed her. But after she committed to Baylor, Cox received an unexpected pep talk from the Lady Bears' head coach.
"I hope that if I've done anything, that I've made her realize that's nothing to hide," Mulkey said. "That's not something you chose. But there are far worse problems and issues in the world than diabetes and let's use what you have and let's go touch lives."
Cox has done that, becoming an inspiration for other people who are in a similar health battle.
"It's amazing how many people we run into before and after games that bring people just to talk to Lauren about her diabetes," Mulkey said. "And I've never known Lauren, even after if she had a bad game, to not be polite and not spend time with people because she understands that same little child was her when she was 7 years old trying to learn how to deal with something that a lot of people don't have to deal with."
"It kind of keeps me going too," Cox said. "I may be a role model for a bunch of people out there, but just seeing the kids after the games that have traveled hundreds, thousands of miles just to see me play, it means a lot to me."
There have been a few occasions where diabetes has kept Cox off the court, but in last year's national championship game, another setback sent her to the sideline. Cox suffered a sprained knee, but it didn't stop her from celebrating the big win over Notre Dame with her teammates when the game was over.
"It's a dream come true to win a national championship and I've been dreaming of that since I was a little girl," Cox said. "So that was an amazing feeling, especially being able to get up on the ladder and cut that net down with everything that had happened. Nothing was going to stop me. That's a huge moment that not a lot of people get to experience so I was going to get up there no matter what it took."
Now there's a new season with renewed health and hope for a second straight title. With everything Cox has been through, why would anyone bet against it?
"If you really love the game, no matter what it is, no matter what sport, no matter what you're doing in life, if you really love it, nothing is going to keep you from doing that," she said.