Paris twins will allow Rush to slide outside
NORMAN, Okla. -- Leah Rush is ready to take on someone her own size.
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 Blackmon.
"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 outside.
"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 handful.
"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.''
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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