Since the moment they took their talents to Fort Collins, the Swedish tandem of Ellen Nystrom and Elin Gustavsson have been the LeBron James and Dwyane Wade of Colorado State women’s basketball.
With as many rings as they have fingers on one hand (four), 100 career victories and over 1,000 career points each, the senior duo has played a gargantuan role for one of the nation’s winningest programs.
Ranking near the top of every major statistical category, Nystrom (552) recently passed Becky Hammon for the CSU all-time career assists record and ranks 10th all-time in scoring with 1,357 career points. A jack of all trades, Nystrom (825) needs just 32 more rebounds to pass Katie Cronin (857) for third most in school history.
Gustavsson also ranks among the top-15 in scoring with 1,328 career points to her name and is among the best shot-blockers in program history with 67 career rejections.
Unlike the prima donna NBA stars, no matter how much success has come their way, Nystrom and Gustavsson have remained the same dedicated and humble teammates they have been for throughout their collegiate career.
Referred to by their coach as the heartbeat of the team, the respect and admiration that this team has for the veteran leaders is evident on and off the court.
“Let’s face it,” Williams said. “We play through these two seniors right here.”
In the most recent victory over New Mexico, each recorded a double-double and when the game was on the line, it was Nystrom and Gustavsson that took over. Whenever the Rams needed a timely bucket or a crucial rebound, it was the tag-team of No. 13 and No. 22 that got it done.
Even after dominating the second-place Lobos and securing an unprecedented fourth straight Mountain West Championship though, the two seniors displayed poise and humility, primarily thanking others for helping them achieve the historic run.
When asked to compare the four runs, the duo explained that they did not want to put any above the other, each being special in their own right.
“It has been four different types of journeys,” Gustavsson said. “I don’t think I can compare them because they are so unique, all of them. Different teammates, different coaches on the staff and I don’t know if I really want to compare them.”
Not known for flashy play or overwhelming athleticism, Nystrom and Gustavsson will be remembered as the greatest duo in CSU women’s basketball history not because they were athletically superior, but because they were willing to put in the workload necessary to be great, and then some.
They do not do it for the glory or for the potential to one day make millions playing a game; they do it because they genuinely love the game of basketball. Winners in every sense of the word, the Rams may never see another one-two punch like Nystrom and Gustavsson.
Collegian sports reporter Justin Michael can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @JustinTMichael.