Before the 2013-2014 season, head coach Ryun Williams and assistant coach Tim Moser struck gold in Sweden.
This was not the first time the members of the CSU women’s basketball coaching staff had recruited in Sweden. However, they had never taken back players with the skillset of the individual’s they grabbed in 2013.
The dynamic duo of Ellen Nystrom and Elin Gustavsson has contributed to the Rams’ success ever since their arrival in Fort Collins.
“Coach Moser has recruited Sweden before on our staff,” Williams said. “We just went there and recruited them like we would go to Chicago or go to Broomfield and recruit a kid, no different. We went and found them and we knew we had a pretty talented duo there. They loved Colorado State, the rest is history.”
Since adjusting to life in a foreign country can be challenging, Nystrom and Gustavsson have stuck together since day one in the states.
“We were like known as the Swedes pretty much,” Nystrom said. “We took the same classes. We were never apart.”
The two actually somewhat knew eachother before attending Colorado State. However, it wasn’t until they began playing on the Rams that the two became inseparable.
“We played on the national team together but we lived so far off, so it’s not like we were hanging out,” Nystrom said. “We only saw each other during summers.”
Nystrom and Gustavsson’s tight-knit relationship off of the court has translated into legitimate on-court chemistry. They have vigorously fed off of each other’s success during their three seasons playing for the Rams.
“You see it a lot during the course of a basketball game,” Williams said. “They cut off of eachother really well, they look for eachother. They’re both really unselfish players, you can definitely see the chemistry.”
Both women have been key contributors to the Rams’ success while playing for CSU. Nystrom eclipsed Becky Hammon’s single season assist record of 174 last season with 186. While she is on pace to break Hammon’s career assist record, she has scored 9.7 points per game and collected 6.3 rebounds per game for the Rams.
“I think my success has had to do with confidence and gaining experience,” Nystrom said.
Nystrom was picked to win her second consecutive Mountain West player of the year award earlier this month. CSU was also picked to finish atop the conference.
Like Nystrom, Gustavsson has also dominated for CSU. If she scores over 204 points this season, which she has in each of her three seasons, she will crack the top-10 All-Time scoring list for CSU. She has averaged 10 points and 4.8 rebounds per game as a Ram.
“It has to do with coach pushing me to do more and I’ve kept feeling more comfortable playing every season,” Gustavsson said.
Though there is nothing in the way of the Swedish combo to continue their success this season, the team enters the 2016-2017 season losing multiple contributors from last year’s 31 win squad. The Rams have lost two All-Mountain West players in Jamie Patrick and Keyora Wharry. They were CSU’s leading scorers last season at 13.2 and 10.7 points per game, respectively. Nystrom and Gustavsson will now have the team in their hands.
“The biggest thing for them is just shouldering more responsibility,” Williams said. “They’ve always had a really nice solid group around them. They’ll have a good group around them this year but we need to be on their shoulders this time.”
If the Rams want to return to the NCAA tournament, Nystrom and Gustavsson will have to guide them there. With experience and three exceptional seasons under their belts, doing so shouldn’t be an issue.
“We’ve been here now for four years so we should have more responsibility,” Gustavsson said. “We know what to expect and we know what we have to do. From that perspective that’s why we feel like we are the leaders. We are also the oldest too.”
Collegian sports reporter Eddie Herz can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Eddie_Herz