Tulsa Shock: How a season with 'Coach C' helped spark former Oklahoma star Courtney Paris' breakout WNBA season

How did Courtney Paris go from bust to boom in the WNBA? It goes back to a city on the Mediterranean coast and a man who she calls Coach C — Ceyhun Yildizoglu, a coach in the Turkish Basketball League.
by Jenni Carlson Published: July 4, 2014
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She’s showing signs of the gal who dominated at OU, becoming the first college player, man or woman, to score 2,500 points and grab 2,000 rebounds.

Even after a stellar college career, people wondered if she’d be effective in the WNBA. Her game was power and brawn, and she went into the league at a time teams were gravitating toward post players who were more speedy and agile.

“It was all about what I wouldn’t be able to do at this level,” Paris remembers. “At first, that’s all I could focus on — ‘Man, I don’t know if I can do this. Man, I’m not a face-up player. I can’t do this. I can’t do that.’”

Paris still isn’t a face-up player. Speed and agility aren’t her greatest assets either. But at 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, she doesn’t worry about what she can’t do.

She concentrates on what she can do.

“What separates me? What makes me capable of playing in this league?” she said. “That’s what I tried to focus on.”

Posting up. Blocking out. Grabbing boards. Clearing space.

But as much as her game has improved and developed, Paris is proudest of is the way she hung in there these past five-plus years. She achieved so many things so quickly in college, but then, it was the exact opposite as a pro.

Drafted No. 7 in 2009 by Sacramento, where she spent a year before the franchise folded. Signed by Chicago but cut before the 2010 season, which she spent out of the league. Signed by Los Angeles but cut before the 2011 season. Picked up later that year by Atlanta where she played 28 games before being cut again.

Even since Tulsa signed her, it hasn’t been an easy road. She played the entire 2012 season for the Shock, then re-signed for 2013 only to be cut when Cambage decided at the last minute to play instead of stay overseas. Then, Paris re-re-signed when Cambage was injured.

“There are different paths that people take,” she said. “Sometimes, it all happens at once, and sometimes, you have to go through the process. For me in this professional game, I’ve kind of had to go through the process.

“The thing I’m most proud of is, I’m still fine.”

Watch her play this season, and Courtney Paris seems better than fine.

Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.


by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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