Courtney Paris became a superstar in four years at Oklahoma.
In five years in the WNBA, she became a journeywoman.
She played for five teams. Got cut by four of them. Started less games than she did some months in college. Even spent an entire season out of the league.
“At times,” she admitted, “it was frustrating.”
Paris is having a breakout season, starting for the Tulsa Shock and posting numbers that are among the best not only on her team but also in the league. The bumps in her per-game averages are jaw dropping.
This season: 9.9 points, 11.6 rebounds, 29.6 minutes.
Her previous highs: 4.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 13.4 minutes.
So, how did Paris go from bust to boom?
It goes back to a city on the Mediterranean coast and a man who she calls Coach C.
Last summer, Paris signed with Mersin, a team in the Turkish Basketball League. She had played in the league the two previous seasons and done well, averaging a double-double, so she was a known and sought-after commodity.
When she arrived in the city of nearly a million and met her new coach, though, she didn’t feel all that loved. Ceyhun Yildizoglu pushed and prodded, harassed and hounded. The man who also coaches Turkey’s national team wanted everything done the right way every time.
When rebounding free throws, Coach C wanted Paris to block out each time. Even if she got the board, he would get on her for not blocking out.
His insistence made her mad and frustrated and uncomfortable.
But as the months went on, Paris saw the results of Coach C’s attention to detail. She looked at the game differently. Played it differently, too.
“He challenged me every day,” Paris said, “and it was just good for me.”
Even though her averages went down with Mersin, Paris felt like she had the best overseas season of her career. So did Coach C.
“Take this season, and use everything you learned,” he told her right before she returned to the United States. “Go to the WNBA, and use this.”
One more bit of instruction from Coach C that she’s followed.
Re-signed by the Shock in April, Paris seized an opportunity when Liz Cambage decided to stay in Australia and prepare for the world championships. Paris won the starting center position coming out of training camp and has only cemented the spot as the season has gone on.
She doesn’t just lead the Shock in rebounds.
She leads the league.
Averaging 11.6 rebounds a game, she is one of only two players in the WNBA averaging double figures. And after a 12-point, 15-rebound performance Thursday in a win at Connecticut, she is just a smidgen from averaging a double-double this season.