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Courtney and Ashley Paris - photos by Bill Hefton
Soon to be Sooners
The Paris Twins

The perfect blend of power and finesse, or so the twins have been called while demonstrating their skills on a basketball court. But Courtney and Ashley Paris are much more than just star athletes. They are bright, complex and uncommonly expressive young women.

The Paris twins not only can play a mean game, they can explain the hows and whys of all that goes with it. And that’s exactly what they will do this coming fall when they officially become student-athletes at the University of Oklahoma.

It’s enough to get Sooner basketball enthusiasts stirring even with the countdown to the 2005 football season already in motion. And why not — it’s not every day OU lands the No. 1 recruit in the country (Courtney) and the eighth-best prep prospect in the land (Ashley).

The Twins’ arrival has already caught the attention of national voters who will likely give coach Sherri Coale’s squad serious consideration when evaluating the potential impact of 6-foot-4 Courtney and 6-2 Ashley. And just for good measure, neither sister is shy when it comes to talking about winning championships.

In fact, both expect Oklahoma to begin collecting some serious hardware again immediately, if not sooner.

Sooner Spectator editor Jay C. Upchurch sat down with the twins recently and talked about their decision to attend OU and a whole lot more.

Sooner Spectator: The two of you have been to Norman three times, now. What are your impressions of the city and the campus?

Courtney: My first impression came when we attended one of the games last season when OU played Texas and we got the chance to meet some of the fans — people in Oklahoma are just so nice. It’s a lot different than California and the (San Francisco) Bay area where everything is so fast-paced. Things here are more laid back and the people were like so cool, telling us ‘thanks for coming’ and everyone was so sincere. It will be very exciting to play for these people and this university.

Ashley: Norman has the feel of a smaller college town and that’s one of the things I like about it. Everything I’ve experienced here has been very comfortable and that’s very appealing.

SS: Ultimately, what was the deciding factor in you choosing Oklahoma?

Courtney: I’m very competitive when it comes to basketball. Off the court, I’m just a regular human being who loves people. I honestly think the best of both worlds are here. I really got attached to the coaches at OU and a lot of the players we’ve met reminded me of my friends back home and the kind of people I’m attracted to. I definitely felt a connection to Oklahoma and it really felt like a home environment, even though it’s far from our home. And I want to win a national championship — that’s really important to me. I think we can get it done here and that was really big for me.

Ashley: Honestly, I love the people here and Coach Coale. I felt so comfortable on our visit here and when we were around the team. All of our interaction with the team went smooth and I really felt like I could fit in here.

SS: How tough was it not to give in to public opinion and local pressure to stay closer to home and play for either Cal or UCLA?

Courtney: It was tough because we did hear a lot about staying in California and playing closer to home. But ultimately, you’ve got to do what’s best for you, and I think some people fail to look at it that way. Fans tend to look at it from the standpoint of what team you are going to play for, but if you take basketball out of the equation, then you are talking about your life and everything else in it. It’s all about the path you are going to take and the experience in general. This is the one I was really drawn to and I’m really looking forward to the possibilities. I want to experience as much as I can and I’m very fortunate basketball gives me a chance to do that.

Ashley: We knew all along we were going to base our decision off of what we felt was best. We got a lot of flak about not choosing a school closer to home, but at the end of the day, we had to pick the place that was right for us and where we were going to be happy.

SS: Being so far from home, will your parents get to see you play much?

Courtney: (Laughing) I wouldn’t be surprised to see my parents move out here. My mom is from the Midwest, so she’s going to come out for a lot of games. And our dad is talking about coming as much as he can, so we’re excited they’ll be here as much as possible.

Ashley: Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me if they move here. If not, they will definitely be here as often as possible to see our games.

SS: Were there ever any thoughts that the two of you might end up going to different schools?

Ashley: Down the stretch, Courtney was really into OU and I liked Oklahoma too, but I kinda was leaning toward Texas. We talked about it a lot and I ultimately decided coming here was the right thing for both of us.

Courtney: We both were attracted to the same schools. We both pretty much had the same top 10, the same top five, and once we started getting down to the nitty gritty of it all, I think Oklahoma was a collection of everything we both wanted. It was the one school we were both sold on. This is a place we both felt like we could accomplish our goals and we really liked the people and was the place we felt like we wanted to spend the next four years of our lives at.

SS: Knowing the level of expectations that go with being a top prospect playing at one of the top programs in the country, does that serve as motivation or is it a bit unnerving?

Courtney: We got that question a lot in high school about ‘how do you handle the pressure?’ For me, I like pressure and I like those kinds of expectations. It’s motivation for me. In talking to Coach Coale and some of the players here, they believe. When that happens within a program and everyone is working together, it becomes less pressure and more of an inspiration thing.

Ashley: It’s extra motivation for me. I have total confidence in Coach Coale and this team, and we all have very high expectations.

SS: You two helped Piedmont High to some rather lofty heights during the last two seasons — is that your ultimate goal at OU?

Courtney: I don’t feel like I can come here and myself change this program. I want to be a part of it. I want to contribute to a team and a program that I feel can really get it done the right way. Maybe I’m like a big dreamer and I’m being too optimistic, but I don’t know any other way to be. Each year when I step out here on this court and we start conditioning, and I’m running and do all of the extra stuff — I’m doing it because at the end of the season I want to be the last team standing. Maybe that won’t happen this coming season, but that will always be my goal.

Ashley: Winning a national championship is the ultimate goal and in all honestly, it’s something we believe this program can do. That’s one of the reasons we came to Oklahoma, we felt the opportunity to accomplish that goal was realistic.

SS: How old were you when you first realized you had a chance to be a really good basketball player?

Ashley: When we were 12 and in junior high, we played against the guys and held our own. We always kind of had a hand up on girls our age.

Courtney: I remember when we were little and we had a basketball court in our backyard, and we played some times. We started off playing with the boys teams in fifth or sixth grade and we did pretty well. Then we started playing with girls our age and we were a lot better. That’s when I kinda knew there was a difference.

SS: Do you enjoy other sports or play any other sports?

Courtney: I do enjoy other sports, but I’m just not any good at any of them.

Ashley: I enjoy playing badminton. I’m OK at it, but I’m getting better.

SS: How much have your parents influenced your success as athletes?

Courtney: Our mom, first of all, has been so supportive, especially when we were younger. We didn’t become good players overnight. There was a lot of time put in at camps and a lot of tournaments. It’s been a big process that has paid off in the end. Mom sacrificed a lot to help make that happen. And then our dad is a motivational speaker and he is so inspirational, even though he knows nothing about basketball. But he knows about competing and having the right mindset. He’s great to talk to.

Ashley: Our dad is such a motivating type person. He’s always encouraged us to do the best we can and continues to do that. Our mom has really always been there, pushing us and not letting us quit. She’s always been the one to take us everywhere, tournaments and camps.

SS: Your father had a successful career as a pro football player (Bubba Paris helped the San Francisco 49ers win three Super Bowls), is that a goal the two of you share?

Courtney: That would be great to have the opportunity to play in the WNBA. As long as it’s fun and I’m enjoying myself and still love basketball when I graduate, that would be incredible. Right now, my focus is on Oklahoma and getting a degree in communications — journalism or broadcasting.

Ashley: I would like the option to possibly play in the WNBA someday. I think that would be great. But that’s a ways down the road. I’m still trying to narrow down my what I’m going to major in at OU.

SS: What is the most fun about being a twin?

Courtney: For instance, like going on this trip to Oklahoma — I can only imagine what some kids go through when they decide to leave home and go to school. It’s can probably be a pretty tough leap. But being a twin, it’s like you always have someone there to share the experience. You are never alone in the crowd. It’s a pretty cool situation.

Ashley: Yes, there’s always someone there to make decisions with you and always someone by your side. It makes life a lot easier when you have someone there you can relate to and who is always there for you.

SS: What is your favorite way to relax?

Courtney: One, I like going fishing with my dad. And I also just like to go outside and read a book.

Ashley: Really, just laying around watching TV.

SS: When you two are on the court together, is there an unseen chemistry that exists between you?

Ashley: A lot of people say ‘Oh, you guys have got the twin thing going on the court,’ but I think it’s more of a situation where we’ve been on the court together so much we have come to know what to expect from each other.

Courtney: If you play with someone long enough, you start to realize they know what you are going to do. Every single team I’ve ever played on, Ashley has been my teammate. We are very familiar with each other’s game. But sometimes I think there is something more to it. Maybe it is a twins thing?

SS: Excited about the future?

Courtney: I’m ecstatic. I’m looking at it as more than just basketball — I truly believe this is going to be four of the best years of my life. I’m ready to get started.

Ashley: It’s so exciting. Just being here this week really makes it seem real and I can’t wait to get here this fall.