- Jerry Bembry
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Ed's note: There is a long-form feature on Oklahoma senior center Courtney Paris in our current issue. Click here to read it. This is a companion piece by the author, as well as a video!
When I walked up to say hello to Courtney Paris at the Lloyd Noble Center practice facility in Norman, Oklahoma, I was surprised how imposing (6'4, 240 pounds) a player she was in person. When I talked to some of the people who played ball against her—including a 6'5'' guy who got the wind knocked out of him by a well-placed Courtney elbow—I became aware how fierce of a competitor she is on the court. And when I sat down this person who, in Norman, is bigger than life, I was amazed how…soft spoken she was.
"Come on now," Paris tells me, when I express surprise about her demeanor. "Tell me, what were you expecting me to be like?"
To be honest, I'd expected a bit of ego. A little edge. One of the reasons: as we videotaped the interview, there was a larger than life (about three stories tall) banner of Paris hanging over her left shoulder in Oklahoma's "Legacy Court" where Sooner greats (Wayman Tisdale, Mookie Blaylock among others) are honored. Not too many people get honored as legends before they've suited up for their senior season.
But Paris is indeed a legend. She'll finish her career as one of the most decorated college players ever.
Maybe it's the genetics in Norman: Courtney and her sister, Ashley are daughters of NFL Super Bowl champion Bubba Paris. The dad of guard Whitney Hand, Rich Hand, pitched for two teams in the major leagues. Forward Abi Olajuwon is the daughter of NBA champion Hakeem Olajuwon. Sophomore guard Carlee Roethisberger is the sister of Super Bowl champion quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. And several other players on the team are related to former college and pro athletes.
The lineage: pretty impressive. But Courtney knows the the past accomplishments of her teammates' relatives won't help this team in their bid to reach the Final Four. "That's the one thing I'd like to do before my career is over—play in a Final Four."
With that thought, Paris allows herself to crack a slight smile, leaving me to think that if the Sooners are playing in April, maybe then we'll see Courtney Paris roar.
16mMichael C. Wright