UCLA is one of five serious contenders for the biggest haul in the girls 2005 national class, twins Courtney and Ashley Paris from Piedmont (Calif.) High.
Courtney is rated either the #1 or #2 prospect in the country by various girls basketball scouting services. She's a 6-3 center that has been tagged with that infamous nickname of "Baby Shaq" at times, but also called potentially the most dominant frontcourt player in women's college basketball since Lisa Leslie. She was named the Student Sports National Junior Player of the Year when she averaged 27 points, almost 19 rebounds and 5 blocks per game for Piedmont. She also played for the USA Basketball Junior Team this summer.
Her twin sister, Ashley, is no slouch herself. She's 6-2 and more of a combo forward, being ranked the #6 player in the country after averaging 16 points, 12 rebounds and 2 blocks her game as a junior.
Together they are a college coach's dream. They would provide a program two top-ten players in the nation, and two different types of games, with Courtney being the true low post and Ashley the combo forward. And they pretty much are certain that they're a package deal.
"I think we're a package," Ashley said. "Right now I really couldn't see us going to separate schools."
Courtney said, "I can't say for certain, but we'll most likely go to the same place."
The Paris twins have some very good bloodlines. Courtney and Ashley are the daughters of former NFL lineman, 6-7 Bubba Paris. Their brother is David Paris, currently a 6-8 junior power forward at California. There's 6-3 Austin, who has been playing football at St. Mary's (until they ended the program, and is now looking to transfer). Another brother – Brandon – is a 6-3, 220-pound fullback/running back prospect who will walk on to the UCLA football team as a freshman next week.
Their step-father is also former Stanford football player, Larry Harris, and their half-brother is 6-5 Wayne Harris, who played football at New Mexico State.
With so much athleticism in the house growing up, Ashley and Courtney said it made for some great family games of basketball in the front driveway. "We always played with our brothers growing up," Ashley said. "We were always bigger than any girls our age, so it was the only way to get some competition."
It wasn't long before Courtney and Ashley, by the fifth grade, were playing on basketball club teams – but boys teams. "We had to play against boys at that age. It wasn't until sixth grade that we actually started playing on girls club teams." By that time, when they were 12 years old, the girls were 5-11.
So, now, as high school seniors, they're the focus of one of the biggest recruiting battles in the nation, and they're systematically and logically balancing their choices.
"And Cal is in there too," Courtney added.
It's believed though, by most women's college basketball watchers, that Cal is probably a long shot at this point, having commitments from four recruits to date.
The twins have already taken official visits to Syracuse (beginning of September) and Texas (end of August). They have visits lined up for Oklahoma on September 30th, UCLA on October 8th and Connecticut October 14th.
When asked if either had a favorite school, Ashley said, "At this point, we're still evaluating. We plan on making it to all of our visits and then deciding." Courtney added: "Now it's basically just taking visits and it's wherever we feel most comfortable. Something is going to stand out about somewhere."
They said that the usual things are important factors in their decision – early playing time, academics, the location, but they emphasized the players on the team and the relationship with the players and the coach. Courtney said, "I'm a people person, so the people, the players, mean a lot to me. I also want to see how I'd fit in with the players who are on the roster, or will be on the roster."
"Going to the best school is important to me," Ashley said. "But seeing how I fit in with the players is really important. I would like to win a national championship in college. I mean, doesn't everyone? And I want to go to a place that gives me the best chance to do that."
For UCLA, many believe the Paris twins are the two missing pieces of the puzzle for a potentially dominating future roster. UCLA has a strong future backcourt with standout Pac-10 first team point guard Nikki Blue a junior, and the Conference Freshman of the Year, wing Noelle Quinn, returning for just her sophomore year this season. Coming in this season is 6-4 McDonald's All-American power forward Lindsey Pluimer, who would complement Courtney at the center position well, and allow Ashley to play more on the perimeter where she can showcase her skills. UCLA also has a commitment from the #12 rated player in the country for the 2005 class, 5-9 point guard Ashlee Trebilcock of Newhall (Calif.) Hart.
"With UCLA, they have a very good backcourt with Blue and Quinn," Courtney said. "I look at that and feel I could fit in there. I'm also interested in broadcast journalism, and L.A. is the second-biggest media market in the country. So it's an all-around good fit."
The twins checked out UCLA this summer when they took an unofficial visit to campus.
But Courtney also talked about the other schools she's considering seriously.
Connecticut: "I think he (Geno Auriemma) is the best girls' basketball coach in the world. I feel like he can help me get to the ultimate level."
Texas: "They have a nice program, and I feel I could fit in with the people they have there."
Syracuse: "They have a great school of communications. That was a big plus for me in considering them."
Oklahoma: "They have just a little bit of everything. Their program is always in the top 25, with a good coach and good people."
The twins said they'd try to take all of their official visits and then probably decide by mid-October.
Both are solid students, with solid GPAs, while Courtney scored a 960 on her SAT and Ashley a 930.