KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Courtney Paris will be 6,085 miles away from the Sprint Center tonight. Her twin, Ashley, will be 5,768 miles away. Yet when Oklahoma faces Notre Dame this evening in the Sweet 16, the Paris twins will have an impact on the game.
You will see it in players who are leading this team, gals who might never have even considered OU if not for Courtney and Ashley. You will see it in habits that were copied and lessons that were learned. You will see it in newcomers who benefit from the sisters’ influence even though they never even played with them. Call it the Paris Effect. "I think any time a player goes through four years in your program, they leave a trace,” Sooner coach Sherri Coale said. "There is always a residual impact. "If you do it right, there’s supposed to be some residual impact.” And the Paris twins did lots of things right during their career. There were four NCAA Tournament appearances, including one that went all the way to the Final Four. There were record crowds at the Lloyd Noble Center. There were hundreds of headlines and highlights. But their impact was biggest on the Sooners who have come right behind them. "I wanted to go to a school where they were a top program ... but they weren’t all the way at the top yet and there was still room to grow,” Courtney Paris said via telephone. "I wanted to be a part of that growth. "And it’s cool to see that growth continue.” Having continued success requires talented players, and two of the Sooners’ biggest contributors would probably not be wearing the crimson and cream if the Paris twins hadn’t done it first. Back in high school in California, Abi Olajuwon played summer basketball with Courtney and Ashley. They became so close that Olajuwon decided that wherever they signed, she would automatically put that school in her top five. "So ... if they’d have picked Delaware State, I was going on an official visit to Delaware State,” Olajuwon said, smiling. Instead, Olajuwon made one of her recruiting visits to OU, and it was then that she saw some of the things that lured the Paris twins to Norman. Fans who are passionate about the Sooners. Facilities that are second to none. Coaches who treat players like family. The Paris sisters might not have convinced Olajuwon to become a Sooner, but they opened her eyes to the possibility. Ditto for Danielle Robinson. Growing up in Northern California, she played for the same summer basketball program as the Paris twins. Even though Robinson was never on the same age-group team with them, she knew what kind of talent they had. "To see them leave California and come to the Big 12 made me realize there’s bigger and better things away from home,” she said. "Once I stepped on campus, I knew this is where I wanted to be.” Now, Robinson is the engine that propels the Sooners, starting at point guard and leading the team in scoring with 16.7 points a game. Olajuwon is the anchor in the middle, averaging 10.5 points and 7.2 reboiunds. "When we decided to come to Oklahoma, everybody was like, ‘Oklahoma? Why would you go to Oklahoma?’ ” Courtney Paris said.