Shock Coach Appreciates Talents of Paris
By GLENN HIBDON
GTR Sports Writer
COURTNEY PARIS: The OU graduate is one of the best inside players in the WNBA. Through 20 games this season, she is shooting 59.5 percent from the field with a league-leading 10.8 rebounds per game.
HARRY LENTZ for GTR Newspapers
At last, Courtney Paris has found a home with the Tulsa Shock.
A household name with the Oklahoma Sooners before graduation in 2009, the 6-foot-4, 250-pound athlete has toiled in obscurity through four years in the . After meeting Shock coach Fred Williams, she’s found someone who appreciates her unique talents.
“A lot of our systems are run to her to get the basketball inside and contribute to our offense,’’ says Williams, in his first season as the Shock’s head coach. “For her, it’s a matter of will and determination to make this team. Instead of coming in as a backup, I give her more minutes.’’
Williams first met Paris when he was an assistant coach with the Atlanta Dream. She came on board for a short time and was lost in a forest of post players. Williams said he believes Paris should not have been released.
“She has good moves to the basket, and we want to get her isolated with a one-on-one power dribble in the paint.’’ Williams says. “She’s still getting better, and she hasn’t reached her potential yet. There’s no telling how high she can go.’’
The native of San Jose, Calif. is having a breakout season with the Shock this summer. After the departure of 6-8 Liz Cambage, Paris is the bulk of her team’s inside game. Through 20 games she averaged 10.1 points and a league-leading 10.8 rebounds. Shooting 59.5 percent from the field, she’s on course to set a franchise season record for accuracy along with most ever season rebounds.
Prior to the 2014 campaign, she bounced around the league. Her career was unfulfilled.
“It gets frustrating, but that’s life,’’ Paris said matter of factly after stops in Sacramento and Atlanta and training camps in Chicago and Los Angeles. “I tried to stay positive, and I’m confident about this season. I’ve just got to keep getting better.’’
Paris had twice before suited up for the Shock before Williams entered the picture as head coach this year. She was signed again on April 11, and Williams quickly placed her in a starting position while continuing to elevate her game.
“I first worked with him in Atlanta, and he’s a great offensive coach,’’ says Paris, who has a journalism degree from OU. “He’s smart about putting players in the right situations, and he’s a brilliant strategy coach. He cares about you and puts you in a position to be successful. It’s easy to thrive if you do what he says to do.’’
Selected seventh in the 2009 draft by the Sacramento Monarchs, Paris was the first four-time Associated Press All-American and set marks in career rebounds and double doubles. Her bulk, along with her post up moves, made Williams totally impressed with her untapped talent.
“She believes in me as a coach, and I believe in her. She’s working hard for us,’’ says Williams. “She understands that when I push the ball down, I try to give her the first touches on the ball. We pick and roll, and our guards bounce the ball in to her. We want to pin her down against smaller guards.’’
Williams says rebounding and shot blocking are Paris’ obvious strengths, but she needs to finish better when she gets double teamed inside. He said Paris is unstoppable one-on-one and she’s learning to power up and split two players to finish shots.
“She needs to continue her conditioning to get up and down the court,’’ Williams admits. “She gets a little winded sometimes so she goes six minutes strong and then I sit her out three or four and then put her back in for six.’’
Maybe Paris has a few limitations, but she realizes what they are and how to correct them. She’s simply thankful that Williams has given her the opportunity.
“He knows my game and doesn’t ask me to do anything outside of it,’’ Paris says. “I rebound, set screens and put back shots. I’m not the first option on offense, but when we run plays I know the reason we’re running them.
“Rebounding makes me stand out in this league, and I want to be one of the best. Obviously, my size helps, but the players in this league are the most athletic players in the world. Over the years I’ve gained experience and learned to adjust.’’
However, no adjustment in fan affection has been necessary since Paris’ latest arrival in Tulsa. Following her heady days in Norman, the Shock faithful know what she can do. Now it appears Paris’ nomadic days are all over.
“She’s found a home with us this year,’’ says Williams. “This is her home, and this is where she needs to be.’’