Sooners center basking in the spotlight

Updated: March 17, 2006, 9:27 AM ET
Associated Press

NORMAN, Okla. -- Freshman Courtney Paris is hard to overlook, given the stellar season she's had at Oklahoma.

Even before the Monday night's NCAA Tournament selection show started, highlights of Paris were part of the tease to get viewers interested. Once it started, her image kept popping up during the telecast and commercials.

Courtney Paris
Billy Hefton/Icon SMIFreshman Courtney Paris has tallied 30 straight double this season.
When Oklahoma (29-4) earned the No. 2 seed, ESPN turned to the 6-foot-4 center for reaction -- the only player interviewed during the hour-long show.

Entering the NCAA tournament, Paris needs 38 rebounds to set the NCAA record for rebounds in a season. With only three rebounds, she would become the first NCAA player ever to score 700 points, grab 500 rebounds and block 100 shots in a season.

"I've never had a freshman like Courtney Paris, and I'm not sure there's ever been a freshman like Courtney Paris," Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said. "I think her dominance was well reflected in that small little selection show that we had."

Paris ranks sixth in the country in scoring (21.4) and first in rebounding (15.1). She's already set the NCAA freshman records for rebounds and blocked shots (3.4).

"Courtney deserves everything that she gets," said junior guard Erin Higgins, who set Oklahoma's career record for 3-pointers earlier this season.

Higgins thinks the spotlight will follow Paris during the tournament because she's fiery on the court and funny off it.

That's OK with Coale. She's comfortable with the 18-year-old grabbing more headlines since earning McDonald's All-American honors last year. Her twin sister Ashley also was a McDonald's All-American, and her father William "Bubba" Paris was All-Pro for the San Francisco 49ers, adding to the allure.

Ashley Paris, a 6-3 forward, is averaging 6.1 points and 6.6 rebounds.

"I figure she and Ashley's life was a circus when they were 3 years old, so they're very well accustomed to it," Coale said. "They handle it beautifully, and Courtney will continue to rise to the occasion. I have no doubt about that."

Their dad helps them deal with the attention by reminding them to stay focused. He won three Super Bowl titles with San Francisco during the Joe Montana-Jerry Rice era.

"The other day he said, 'Courtney, normally I have all these things to say to you. But I was never the player you are now. You're going to have to go this road on your own,"' she said.

So far, Courtney Paris is enjoying the spotlight. She considers all the interviews practice for her major in communications, and she's glad when her family and friends call or text message her to say they saw her on television.

She admits it has been a bit of a whirlwind, though. Besides her personal records, the Sooners became the first team to go 16-0 in Big 12 play before winning the league tournament.

"Every time where there's that second where you can sit down and be excited about something, you're on to the next great adventure," Paris said. "I'm pretty sure at the end of my year, I'll look back and be like, 'Wow! How cool was this?'"

She's had 30 straight double-doubles -- including one triple-double -- but still finds room for improvement in her game.

"I'm the kind of person who as much as I like to do what I do and as dominating as I can be, I want to be the best," Paris said. "It's not going to happen and it's impossible, but I'm going to try my hardest to be perfect, and I'm nowhere near that."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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