Ashley Paris heaved up a long-odds proclamation Wednesday concerning her improved long-range shooting. "I’ve got Erin Higgins range,” said Paris, referencing the former Oklahoma 3-point specialist.
Crazy talk? Not necessarily. Paris has reshaped her game and her body, all for a final fling at a Final Four. After too much congestion engulfed sister Courtney Paris in the paint a year ago, the call now is for Ashley to at times abandon the post and work further from the basket in an effort to draw defenders and unclog the middle. Ultimate success will depend on her improved outside shot — and the perimeter shooting of others — if the Sooners are to free their superstar and make the run at the Final Four that has so far eluded the Paris twins, who now enter their senior seasons. To accommodate an expanded role that will include more work in the open floor, Ashley spent the off-season dropping jump shots and dropping weight, some 25 pounds, leaving her looking lean and fit. "I tried to make sure I took this time to get in shape and finish my senior year with a bang,” she said. "I feel great. "I definitely feel a lot more agile. It’s easier to move around. I’m just really a lot more confident going into this year, and a lot of that has to do with my physical fitness.” Ashley’s mighty loss could translate into great gains for Courtney — and OU. As the Sooner shooters slumped a year ago, defenses sagged deeper and deeper into the lane, crowding around Courtney. Her scoring average slipped from 23.5 points her sophomore year to 18.6 last season. A little elbow room would suit Courtney just fine. "It would be great,” Courtney said. "That’s the thing I do, I’m an inside player. And I feel like with one player behind me or with space, I can make things happen inside.” It’s not strictly up to Ashley to make things happen outside. Many of the Sooners saw the shot doctor in the offseason, all claiming to be healed. Danielle Robinson, Amanda Thompson, Jenny Vining and Nyeshia Stevenson all have returned to raves about their shooting after so-so shooting efforts a year ago. OU’s best bet for perimeter production could come from a freshman, Whitney Hand, who made 108 3-pointers at Fort Worth’s Liberty Christian High last winter. "I don’t think there’s any question that if Oklahoma found any kind of consistent perimeter play, shooting wise,” said Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly, "they would be almost unguardable.” Said Ashley: "If making a perimeter shot was a problem last year, it won’t be this year.” Not with another Erin Higgins in the house. "Wow, she said that?” Courtney said when informed of sister’s claim.