Courtney Paris is enjoying her best season in the Women’s National Basketball Association. The starting center for the Tulsa Shock, Paris is nearly averaging a double-double on the season, and her professional career seems rejuvenated.
Courtney, along with her twin sister Ashley, became a dominant force for the University of Oklahoma when they arrived in Norman from California.
Courtney averaged 19.9 points, 14.8 rebounds and 3.3 blocked shots over four OU seasons (2006-09) and established 20 NCAA Division I records, including those for rebounds in a season (539) and career (2,034) and career double-doubles (128).
In 2006, she became the first freshman named to The Associated Press All-America team. A year later, she was named AP Women's Player of the Year, the first sophomore to win that honor.
She again received All-American honors as a junior, and in 2009, became the first four-time, first-team All-American in women's college basketball history.
She also received a record three consecutive Big 12 Player of the Year awards. Her father is Bubba Paris, a former offensive lineman who won three Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers.
A lot of people have influenced my life but most definitely my family, my dad and my mom, and especially my sister. We were always so close. We were always around each other.
The No. 1 thing is she is real with me. She is not just going to tell me stuff I want to hear. She is not going to just say stuff to me just to say it. I think we all have those kind of people in our lives who are real with you and who are invested in you. Those are the best kind of people you can have.
She (Ashley) lives in Oklahoma during the offseason. She goes to Tulsa and to Norman. She will play in Europe this fall. We both played in the European League last fall.
We have done everything together. We grew up together and went to college together, so it was a big adjustment after college to kind of be doing our own thing.
Luckily, the past two years we both played in Turkey and we’ve been close and last season we played together, but some seasons we will go six or seven months without seeing each other. That goes for all my family. I have a huge family. With the overseas schedule and playing in the WNBA, it’s hard to see everybody.
We grew up in a few places in northern California, in the bay area. I have eight siblings and I grew up with six of them. I am really close to my siblings. Ashley and I are the only girls and we are the youngest. Probably the reason Ash and I have our passion for basketball is because of all my brothers. I have six older brothers and we always played against each other.
We definitely got picked on a lot. It was good for us. We did a lot of things that probably normal girls don’t have to do because we had so many brothers, but it is probably the reason Ashley and I are so competitive now.
I definitely grew up in a sports atmosphere. Everybody in our family was into sports. My dad was a professional athlete but when he played I was really young.
He retired when I was like 6 years old. It’s not like I remember enough to remember his playing days. But after that (his retirement) it was good, because when you have someone who has played at the highest level, they understand what it takes.
Nowadays, there are so many kids who think it is easy to get things you want. It’s not. There are a bunch of people in the world going after the same stuff. It was nice to have someone who kind of understood that, to grow up with someone who understood that.
My brothers probably steered us to sports (more than our dad) because they were always playing and we grew up watching them play. My dad never pushed us to play sports. He also understood how taxing it is and how overwhelming it all can be. He always pushed us to be normal, to have a normal childhood, and not play as much basketball, but we loved it too much not to do that.
I always knew that this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to play basketball at a high level. He understood what it takes to get to that level. Not everybody gets to live out their dream. You got to compete to live out your dream. Understanding that at a young age was something good for me to know.
I had a friend who was playing on my AAU team and she was being recruited by Texas and Oklahoma. I wasn’t looking at any Big 12 schools at that time. She mentioned them to us and we started to get interested.
I got to know the staff, Coach (Sherri) Coale and (former OU assistant) Bo Overton, who was recruiting us at the time, and (OU assistant) Jan Ross, and I just loved it (at OU). I don’t regret the decision going there one bit. Ashley and I kept our house since college. There are people there who I am still close to who are like family to me. That’s the reason I went there.
When I was there and immediately afterward, (not winning a national title) kind of weighed on me. As you go on through life you realize there were a lot of people that did not win one.
Going there I thought we would and I really wanted to, but at the end of the day I got so much more out of it. I think I had a great experience, met great people, learned a lot and got a great education. It would be awesome to stay in basketball and coach there one day.
It was a different game (going from college to the pros). A totally different game. The shot clock changed. The lane is wider. You got the most athletic, the most talented players in the world. For me, it was just adjusting to the new type of game. The faster pace. The faster shot clock.
I made the most of my offseason over in Turkey. I had a really good coach over there, their national team coach. I actually learned a lot from him and I got my weight down.
Since I left college I have clocked more time in Europe, specifically Turkey, than anywhere. I have played over there five years now and it’s almost like a second home to me. It’s a different culture but one I have adjusted to.
We got a new coach here (in Tulsa) and he gave me an opportunity and I’ve tried to make the most of it. I love the support staff here. I love our team. Everyone is so supportive and our assistant coaches are some of the best. I am just in a situation where I can thrive in.
I want to keep playing as long as I can. In basketball, there is no guaranteed timeline. You hope to stay healthy but anything can happen on any day. My goal is just to enjoy what I am doing every day I have the opportunity to do it.
I majored in journalism at OU so I definitely want to do something in regards to that (when I quit playing professionally). I love to write. I like to journal a lot. That’s always been a fun thing to do. When you are overseas, you have a lot of free time, so I make the most of that. I journal on my life in general.
I love to travel. That’s one thing I love to do, is to go see the world. That’s one thing that I have been lucky with basketball that I’ve gotten to do. I have seen places I never would have dreamed of going. And now, when I do get some free time, I love to go see other places.
I definitely want to keep my foot in basketball in some way when I retire. There are different outlets for doing that. I definitely want a family and to settle down somewhere. Life takes you where you are supposed to be. Wherever I end up, I will make the most of it. I can see myself in a million places but God has you where he wants you to be.