For CSU women’s basketball freshmen Ellen Nystrom and Elin Gustavsson, sports were the key to another world — America. Before they became key pieces to the success of the women’s basketball team, they had to learn English.
“We spoke a lot of Swedish in the beginning,” Gustavsson said. “Our teammates were like, ‘come on, you have learn English.’”
Nystrom was quick to finish Gustavsson’s statement, as they both do frequently.
“We spoke pretty good, it was the confidence. I had to think to speak before I said it,” Nystrom said.
The two of them do that a lot; finish each other’s sentences. It’s the universally recognizable habit of best friends.
“You can tell they’ve been friends for a while, they find each other really easily on the court,” senior captain Sam Martin said. “They have a bond, like two best friends would.”
Though Nystrom hails from northern Sweden, where she says it’s colder than Fort Collins, and Gustavsson comes from the south, the two became fast friends playing on the Swedish national team.
The friendship gave them a cushion of support to move out to Colorado together to play for the Rams. That and has only strengthened since they arrived.
“They’re inseparable. You see one, you see them both,” head coach Ryun Williams said. “They have fun with each other, they have fun with the team. Their chemistry is extraordinary and their play is contagious.”
Williams is not exaggerating when he says “inseparable.” The two share a dorm together on top of the hours upon hours they shoot hoops together. But they are the kind of friends who make you want to hang around them.
“I really like this team, I can talk to anyone about anything,” Nystrom said.
“Yes, everybody is so nice so that feels really good,” Gustavsson finished.
This season, it would be difficult to find any member of the (17-4, 9-1 Mountain West) team who isn’t feeling nice. Martin has her first winning season of her four year career as a starter with the additions of AJ Newton, Gritt Ryder, and of course, Gustavsson and Nystrom.
The two Swedes are averaging 10.6 and 8.8 points per game respectively, as well as 5.4 rebounds for Gustavsson and 6.1 for Nystrom. While Williams, who has been congratulated on the golden players he mined from Europe, is pleased with their consistent performances, he attributes the team’s impressive record to a group effort.
“They’re winners, but they are no different than anybody else,” he said. “We wouldn’t be the same team without Grit, or AJ or Duffy – but they are certainly very strong contributors to this team.”
With all the success they have had, and their packed schedules, they haven’t had time yet to miss their families, despite the nearly 5,000 mile distance. Plus, they have made a new family here in Fort Collins.
“We Skype with them all the time — or once a week maybe,” Nystrom laughed. “But we don’t have time to miss our families, we are so busy. And we have our friends, so we don’t have to worry.”
With only one conference loss to Fresno State, the Rams host Air Force Saturday at noon in Moby Arena, atop the Mountain West Conference.Collegian Reporter Cali Rastrelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @c_rasta5.