NORMAN, Okla. -- Leah Rush is ready to take on someone her
After a year of going up against the biggest players in the Big
12, the junior forward is moving to a more comfortable spot on the
perimeter for Oklahoma this season.
Out of necessity, the 6-foot-1 Rush had to play the post for the
Sooners last season and play opposite some of the league's top
scorers, such as Texas' Tiffany Jackson and Baylor's Steffanie
"During the season, you don't really think about it because
you're so busy and in the moment that you don't have time to think,
'Oh man, I'm getting beat up. Poor me,' '' Rush said Tuesday at
Oklahoma's media day. "So, you just do it. That's your job and you
just do it the best you can.''
Rush averaged 15.5 points to lead the Sooners, but all the wear
and tear took a toll at the end of a 30-game season.
"When the season was really done with," Rush said, "I had a chance to sit
back and think, 'Oh, my shoulder's hurting me,' "my knees are kind of 'whoa.' ''
Enter Courtney and Ashley Paris. A 6-foot-4 freshman, Courtney
Paris averaged 27.4 points, 18.9 rebounds and five blocks as a
senior at Piedmont High School in California last season and was
the MVP of the McDonald's All-American game.
Her twin, Ashley, is a 6-3 forward who averaged 18
points and 13 rebounds and also played in the McDonald's
All-American game. Together, they'll bring a post presence that
Oklahoma didn't have a year ago and also allow Rush to move
"It's a big load off of my back as far as having to cover the
post because that's not my job anymore,'' Rush said. "It frees me
up offensively to move around, run around and feel free in the
offense. I think that's when I'm at my best.''
"Defensively, it's huge because I had a hard time guarding some
of those girls last year. Being able to play people my size and
have them take care of what they do and I can take care of what I
do. It just works out real well.''
Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale is excited about what Rush will be
able to do this season. She has already had to tell Rush to slow down
in practice because she has extra energy that she hasn't had to
expend on defense.
"I think Leah won't get beat up. That's the best part of it,''
Coale said. "I feel like we wore her down defensively more than we
disadvantaged her offensively last year playing her out of
position. She was able to manufacture points.
"If she had to go out and back screen and end up on the
perimeter from the 5 spot, she would do that and score. If she
had to catch it at the high post and wheel and get to the rim, she
would do that and she would score.''
Coale said she has also seen improvement in Rush's ability to move
without the ball.
"I think that's going to be the biggest difference,'' Coale
said. "She was tremendous last year as long as she had the
basketball. Not as smart, not as sharp, not as intentioned without
the ball as she was with it. This year I think she's made
tremendous progress in that regard, and I think that makes her a
"If you guard her with someone who's 5-7 or 5-8, she'll shoot
right over the top or post you up. When you guard her with anyone
who's bigger or has a little bit of a speed problem, she's going to
take you to the rim.''
Through her experience at Oklahoma, Rush feels comfortable
playing anywhere from small forward to center.
"Every year I've been here, I've had a completely different
role. I think that versatility for me is one of my strengths,''
Rush said. "I'm moving from what I was last year and what I was
the year before, but at the same time it's just turning another
page and doing something else that I can do.''