Courtney Paris: Like father ... like daughter?

Sooner star recruit Courtney Paris's bloodlines helped make her the No. 1 prospect in the country.

By Ellen Dimitrov with Justin Whitehead Special to OUInsider from (Scout Network)

Recently committed to Oklahoma, Courtney Paris has the bloodlines, including a former NFL great as a father and top prospect as twin sister, that have made her the No. 1 recruit in the country.

Courtney Paris has game. She has size and power and more – the "package." As well as a nickname, "Baby Shaq," that is as fitting as any.

In his day, William H. Paris, Jr., also had game. He had size and power – at 6-foot-8, 295 pounds – and won three Super Bowl rings with the San Francisco 49ers. So dominant was he from his tackle position, he is better known as "Bubba."

Which is to say that, in addition to everything else Courtney Paris has going for her, the top-ranked girl's basketball player in the Class of 2005 also has DNA. Bubba Paris, after all, is her father. Her mother, Lynne is 6-1 and has a brother, Leonard Gray, who played power forward in the NBA for the Seattle SuperSonics.

Which is to say that the acorn doesn't fall far from the oak, does it? The 6-3, 250-pound Paris may be the best of the lot, but the lot is littered with others like her. Twin sister Ashley also is one of the country's top five prospects. Another top girl's hooper, select teammate Abi Olajuwon is the daughter of – you guessed it – former NBA great Hakeem Olajuwon. Another, Keriann Laimbeer, is the daughter of former Detroit Piston Bill Laimbeer, head coach of the Detroit Shock, which incidentally last year won the WNBA title behind forward Cheryl Ford, daughter of NBA great Karl Malone.

And, oh yeah, the DNA-dominant Detroit club just added Iciss Tillis, daughter of former heavyweight champion James "Quick" Tillis. Shall we go on? We can – Katie Dierdorf of St. Louis, daughter of NFL lineman Dan, and Jessica Elway, daughter of NFL great John, for two. Rometra Craig, daughter of Bubba Paris' former 49er teammate, Roger Craig, just finished a distinguished career at USC. Looming as one of the country's top prospects, Regina Rogers of Seattle, Wash., Class of 2007, is the daughter of former NFL player Reggie Rogers.

The product of all that athletic input cannot be coincidence.

"I definitely think that athletes inherit qualities from their elite athlete parents that help them," said Shimmy Gray, an assistant women's basketball coach at Arizona. "Look at the size of the Paris twins! They are definitely abnormal compared to other girls their age with their height and weight in combination with their athleticism, speed and quickness. You just don't find 16-year-old girls that are built like that and that can move that way with such coordination and athleticism. Also, they know how to compete. I definitely think that daughters of elite athletes are fierce competitors and have a drive that puts them on a different level."

Athletes have surrounded the Paris twins since birth. Their three older brothers and one stepbrother all were prep standouts, including 6-8, 260-pound David, now 20 years old and entering his junior season at the University of California Berkley. Their stepfather was a three-sport athlete (basketball, track, and football) at Stanford.

The bloodlines – and hard work – have pushed Courtney Paris to become a prototypical post player. She averaged 27.1 points, 18.1 rebounds, and 4.6 blocks per game, for the Northern California state champion Piedmont Highlanders last season. "She's a double-double waiting to happen," said Jerry Gatewood, Paris' traveling team coach and family friend.

The Paris closet is full of awards: Gold Medalist at the USA Basketball Youth Developmental Festival, Parade All-American, Northern California and Oakland City Player of the Year honors are among the hardware. Despite the accolades, Paris says she works extremely hard to stay on top.

"It is very big," to be the number recruited girl's basketball prospect in the country. "It's easier to work for this honor, but when you're there it's hard because you want to stay there," Paris said.

"As much attention as she gets, you'd think she might blow off practice or go through the motions. But nobody works harder or wants to be better. Every time you see her she's got the ball in her hand," said Piedmont High School head coach Bryan Gardere. A 6-3 former Division II player himself, Gardere defends Paris during practice. He often has his hands full with his star. ""I don't let her know it, but when she bangs inside or throws a solid elbow, I definitely feel it," Gardere said. "An average high school defender must totally be in awe trying to guard her."

Until Paris recently committed to Oklahoma, universities couldn't wait to get their hands on this workhorse with quick feet and good hands. Her athleticism and agility had Connecticut, UCLA, Texas, and Syracuse among the suitors, including Oklahoma, that had hoped to land the nation's top underclassmen.

Add 6-2 Ashley to the mix and your program will be competing come NCAA tournament time. In the twins' first organized game of basketball, the then-11-year-old Ashley and Courtney led their team to a 99-1 victory. "They have that twin thing going," explained coach Gatewood. Ashley complements Courtney's power game, by being a versatile player, scoring in transition and on the wings. She presents matchup problems, by facing up defenders or by working them down low on the block.

The twins are happy with each other's success and like the idea of playing together in college. Always having played together, Courtney found it hard playing for the USA qualifying team this summer without Ashley. "It was tough and challenging playing with out her, but was good experience in the end," explained Courtney who is very close to her sister both on and off the court.

And overseeing the development of their athletic careers, though not particularly on the court, has been Bubba Paris. "I knew at an early age that basketball wasn't for me," Bubba said. Courtney Paris put her father's hoops skills plainly: "He's a horrible basketball player!"

On the other hand, "Courtney is so gifted; she has the ability to be the next Michael Jordan, the female version," Bubba Paris said. "She has a mental toughness she is prepared to face anything."

The latter is a quality both daughter and father agree was inherited from Bubba Paris, along with, obviously, the size and athletic ability. Bubba Paris now is a public speaker and head of Paris Enterprises, a marketing and promotional firm specializing in motivational speaking. Paris quickly has distinguished himself as one of the nation's premier speakers. He has addressed groups ranging from IBM executives to San Quentin Prison inmates, from Little League teams to the California State Assembly, from groups as small as two or as large as five thousand.

"I tell my girls that they are competing against the world," Bubba Paris said, "and that someone out there is trying to outwork them, and is improving their game."

Let them try. Courtney Paris says of her status as the country's top prospect, "It gives you a lot of stuff to think about." Like her father before her, Paris has contemplated the consequences and rewards of success. And, when all else fails, she can, after all, dip right back into her gene pool for a competitive edge.

Thank you to Glenn Nelson, Senior Editor for providing this story to OUInsider.

Sooners Illustrated Top Stories