Sooner Blog Spot: One from the Road

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
MARCH 12, 2007

Posted by Sherri Coale | Date: Monday, July 25, 2007 |
Coale Bio 
ROYGBIV.  That's how you remember the colors of the rainbow.  Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.  My 15 year old taught me  that this  week as we drove home from our 7,000th summer league game in yet another driving rain.  The state of Oklahoma just broke a 100 year record for consecutive days of periodic downpour.  Suddenly Norman is the new Seattle--minus the ocean, Pike's fish market, and the Meredith/McDreamy drama of Grace Hospital.   Pretty much, we have ponds spilling their red guts across farmland and rivers we used to be able to walk across rolling like the white capping ocean..  However, last Thursday evening, God granted us early holiday when He rolled out a rainbow that grabbed our breath like a foot first backwards fall.  

We pulled over on the highway just to soak up the view.    It's not like we had never seen a rainbow before, it's just that this one unfolded right before our eyes.  It emerged one legged, like most do, and then it teased us to follow as it poked in and out of the clouds on its way across the sky.   Then it just got cocky as it bolted a strong, solid stream of pure unadulterated color.  It postured stately like taffy strung in a perfect arch.  ROYGBIV.   I will not soon forget the order of the prism nor will I forget where I learned it. 

My son got in the car the other night, his clothes soaked to the skin, his cheeks as rosy red as a china doll's and he said, "Mom, summer league is so FUN!"  Even though I knew he wouldn't be able to tell me why, I had to ask him.  His answer was predictably lousy.  Something like, "I don't know. It just is."  But I knew .  I knew exactly what he meant because the second that he said it I could smell the chlorine from the pool at the Ardmore YMCA where I played every June of my adolescent life.   Ask anybody who ever played it.    Summer League is just about as good as basketball gets and I can't really say why.  Maybe it's because it's important but it doesn't really matter.  Or maybe it's because it matters but it's not really important.  I'm not certain.  But I think it might have something to do with the fact that it's pure.

Nobody really shows up to watch summer league -- only the parents of the tried true and a few random gym rats who can't get enough of a simple game.  There is no band.   No cheerleaders dance or flip or clap their hands.  And nobody gets a trophy when they win. Everyone wears a school issued practice jersey but nobody's shorts match.  The coaches wear flip flops, the kids buy their own Gatorade, and there are no official stats issued at the end of the game.  You gauge how well you played by the feeling you have in your gut.

When I was in college we didn't have summer league, but we had Friday Night Open Gym.  We used to just show up.  The games moved from campus to campus across the metro. No coaches were ever there.  I don't even remember how we got in the buildings or how we knew on any given Friday where we would be.  We just went--guys and gals--rats who would rather play ball than go to a movie any day of the week.   All the gyms were 4,000 degrees in July and August.  You called your own fouls.  Kept your own score.  If you won, you played again.  If you lost, you sat out the next game.  So many people showed up that if you lost, you might not get on again for an hour.  So when you chose up sides, you didn't pick your buddies, you picked guys who could help you win.  And we played as hard as we ever played in our lives.  It was the purest sweat I ever had.

I watch my guys sometimes as they lumber around and hem and haw about a time to play.  And I wonder how it has gotten so screwed up.  I guess the pressure comes eventually, even for those 15 year olds in the middle of summer league.  When you put on the matching uni's and ride the bus, when the concession stand opens and the bleachers fill up, the game becomes important and it changes  a bit.  You play for your school; you play for your parents; you play for your community; you play for your buddies.  But somehow you've got to be able to remember to play because you love the game.

 For college kids it's so very easy to get wrapped up in the responsibility of it all.  Newspapers are going to write about you, radio stations are going to talk about you, and television is going to re-construct your story in living color.   It's important and it matters all at once.

I think somehow we have to save the connection.  Summer league IS fun.  Many of us made our best moves there in the empty sweltering gyms of innocence.  But winning championships IS fun, too.  Just ask anybody who ever cut down a net.  Unfortunately, kids get buried, like my rainbow in the clouds, and they can't see the connection.  They remember how it felt to play because they loved it and they feel the pull of the pot of gold at the end, but the cloak gets so heavy and the clouds get in the way.

As I stared at the handiwork of God in the midst of a soggy, sleepy-eyed June, I thought about how much our kids can teach us, if we just let them.  The "rainbow day", as it's now called, is logged in each of our kids' phones.  All of us know the order of the prism and we've seen grandeur first hand. 

As we drove off, my freckle faced eleven-year-old rolled down the window and stuck her face out to entertain God's brilliance for as long as she could and she said, "It's got to mean something, mama.  Don't you think?"  And what I thought was "Absolutely."

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Posted by Courtney Paris | Moscow, Russia | July 4, 2007
I'm hardly sarcastic in arguing that USA basketball should be considered an upper division elective at all universities.  It definitely could count as a semester abroad.

Right now the book of choice is Dan Brown's Angels and Demons. I find myself reading it with my feet kicked up on the seat next to me, heading to the Kremlin for a tour of the Russian government's headquarters. We walked around the Red Square when we first got here but the group hosting the U21 World Championship has arranged a tour around Moscow for all of the teams.

My book is getting interesting. It's extremely well written and captivating: a mystery/ thriller by the creator of the Di Vinci Code. The setting is the Vacitan City throughout most of the book.

I've been there. I was at the Vatican this past Easter and attended the holiday worship led by the Pope.

And just a week ago I was looking at some of the world's finest art at the Village in France. Not to mention the places USA Basketball has taken me prior to the last four months. And then it hits me that I am possibly one of the world's luckiest people.

I cannot over express how grateful I am to have been apart of USA Basketball these last four years. In a way this is like my senior season. Sure I will do my best to put myself in a position to compete at the senior national team level and I even get a chance to train with the them this September and be apart of a group trying out for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.  But this trip, in particular, means more to me than any before.

It is the last time I will play with this specific age group... the last time we will all be a part of a junior national team and I have to say I'm going to miss this.

There are so many memories.

The West dominating everyone at the Youth Development Festival when I was a junior in high school. The tears shed in the first tryout for the U19 qualifying tournament. Getting a passport (and now laughing about how crazy our pictures look). Being a resident in "Candace Parker's room" in Puerto Rico. Tina Wirth taking pictures and actually sending everyone copies. "Dancing Paco" in Mexico.

Hit songs written.
To name a few:
"Everybody get your hands off your knee"'
"We still don't have our bags"
"Don't drink the water"

And the remix: 
"Don't eat the ice... cause it's made from the water."

Then there is  2009 dominating Pictionary. The inside jokes. The friends. The places I've seen. The books I've read. And all the amazing opportunities!

It's the Fourth of July and the small talk before the game was how much hearing the National Anthem will mean today.  Celebrations have been limited because of our game, but the coaches did organize a team trip to McDonalds (sorry to the strength and conditioning coaches back at all our schools) in honor of our country's birthday.

Tomorrow will be a little more eventful with practice and a BBQ at the American Ambassadors house. I'm still a little uncertain of this barbeque thing, I'm not sure what exactly they will be grilling, but hopefully it hits close to home.

Oh and we actually play games on these trips too. We had our last pool play game today against Japan, and my God do those girls get up the court. Yesterday we were watching them play Australia. I swear there was one possession where the Aussies scored and within two seconds, Japan had the ball inbounds and was shooting a lay-up on the other end. No worries, we came up with a great plan to slow them down... it worked and we won handily after a rough first half.

We have qualified for the gold medal round, which will continue up on the 6th. The championship game is on the 8th and then it will be on our way home on the 9th.

I'm having a great time as always. Working on my game, making friends and seeing the world. I have almost enough frequent flier miles to get a free round trip ticket overseas.  I was talking yesterday with one of the girls about all the exciting places I could possibly go. Then again there so many places USA basketball has already taken me.

Happy Fourth of July!

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Posted by Courtney Paris | Date: Monday, March 12 | Paris Bio
Same excuse for why I haven't blogged in almost forevertime it's so precious, there just never seems to be enough of it. And when you finally have enough you waste it all thinking about all the things you need to use it on instead of getting started. Then finally the moon awakensthe day ends and your back to pushing minutes, begging God for an extra hour in the day. But here in the middle of everything a half hour is available and I have time to share so I will, simply because I like to.

I am proud of my team for not just sitting around and thinking about what we could do with our time; yet instead making the most of it.

We won our conference and tournament championship and I don't know six seniors who deserved it more. We've been through almost everything throughout this season. From being ranked in almost everyone's preseason top three and being asked about things like National Championships to being thrown off every Final Four prediction list and deemed "unelite".

That's okay though because betweenbeing great and being just goodI feel as though we are finding ourselves. The best thing about the whole process was that we didn't panic.  We realized it wasn't too late to come together and reach our goals.  We lost three out of four games in a week and a half span, yet we could still win our conference and do everything we had hoped for. A little bit lucky, a whole lot blessed! Thank goodness we embraced that time, and are choosing to make the most of it.

For most of this season we just needed a place to start and I think our last regular season game against Baylor was a great place; we celebrated everything in that game.

It's amazing how much fun you can have in 40 minutes when everything you do is a reason to cheer. Leah dives out of bounds--we go crazy, Amanda grabs another rebound--we lose our minds, Erin hits a three from half court-- we get light headed in the celebration, everything from getting a defensive of touch, to a nice pass or a screen-- we were up.

And at the end of that game cutting down nets and winning another regular season conference title was great, but how much fun we had stuck out more. It reminded me of what set Oklahoma apart for me in the first place.
For me one of the most defining moments in my recruiting process was watching that 2004 team play Texas in the Big 12 Conference tournament championship game. They celebrated everything. Absolutely made basketball look like the most fun game on earth, I could not wait to play the game they were playing.

Basketball had never looked so pleasing to me, and the thought of being apart of it made signing a national letter of intent a no brainier. I think most times when you remember why you come you remember what you have to offer and you find in doing so that you're most happy-- I came to Oklahoma because I love this game. Coach tells me all the time "Courtney just smileenjoy it". Because it will end, whether it's a season or a career, time does run out.

Out of all the things basketball is for me, the number one thing is fun! I'd be lying if I said I weren't competitive and that I don't love to win. I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to win a national championship, I want to win so bad, the thought of it gets me through my worse days. But winning one would just be a cherry on top. Because the truth is everybody gets a sundae.

My ice cream is the people; without them there is no experience, chocolate is what I learn, nuts are my coaches (no pun intended), the whip cream is my teammates (my favorite part), and the cherrythe championships it makes a sundae look a WHOLE lot better but the experience can be tasteful with or without.

I know this because I have watched mid-majors celebrate like crazy after winning a conference championship. A chance to go to the NCAA'sit's like their national championship.

Chances of them pulling a George Mason on the men's side and sneaking into the Final Four are slim, but the joy of just being placed in a bracket on selection day is inevitable.

So as everything gets mad this March, I will choose to be happy because I am doing the thing I love with people I love, it just doesn't get much better than that.

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Posted by Chris Freet | Date: Sunday, Feb. 11, 2007 

The polls have closed and it wasn't even close, which turns out to be bad news for the Paris twins. Sometimes seniors know best because Erin Higgins' dream team won in a landslide.

The final tallies were:
270 - Erin Higgins' dream team
54 - Courtney Paris' dream team
51 - Ashley Paris' dream team

Thanks to everyone who took the time to vote.

In honor of her win, here is Higgins' team again.

Erin Higgins' Team


Michael Jordan
"Pistol" Pete Maravich
Steve Nash
Bill Russell
David Robinson
Karl Malone
John Stockton
Wilt Chamberlain
Chris Mullin
John Havlicek



Posted by Courtney Paris | Date: Saturday, Feb. 3, 2007 | Paris Bio
First off, let me apologize for the time between blog entries.  No excuses here, just haven't been inspired to write.

But today, I'm back with a blog because I need help settling a debate between my sister Ashley,  Erin Higgins and myself.

We all live together in an off campus house, along with Chelsi Welch, who decided to sit this discussion out. When you spend 99 percent of your life together, debates (that's the nice word for arguments) over meaningless topics are inevitable.  Sometimes you just create things to argue about.

That was the case on Friday night when the three of us decided to draft our own "NBA Dream Teams".  No real rules to the draft except that we were picking 10 players each and that you could use life lines for advice from outside experts. 

In this case that was (assistant coach) Jan Ross for Ashley because she didn't know the name of the player she wanted to draft. 

After the outside consultation of Coach Ross, Ashley does her best David Stern and announces, "with the third pick in the seventh round of the fantasy NBA dream team draft, Ashley Paris picks Dave Cowens."

That's a sleeper pick there and probably the most off the charts selection of the night.  It was also a direct result of a one-on-one film session with Coach Coale.  Coach turned Ashley on to Dave Cowen and now he gets the honor of being on her Dream Team.

Then Saturday after practice, we sat in Coach Coale's office with (director of operations) Guy Austin, Jan, (sports information director) Chris Freet and Leah Rush and debated who exactly had the strongest team.

Predictably there was no resolution to the debate so we have decided to take it to the masses.  We want the fans to vote for the best team.  You can submit your vote through the question forum. 

So without further adieu here are the results of the 2007 Fantasy NBA Dream Team Draft:

Courtney Paris' Team

Shaquille Oneal (first pick in the draft)
Dwayne Wade
Jason Kidd
Larry Bird
Julius "Dr. J" Erving
Lebron James
Kobe Bryant
Dirk Nowitzski
Kevin Garnett
Tim Duncan

Starting Five: Jason Kidd, Lebron, Dr. J, Shaq and Larry the Legend.

Why it is the best team: We have the most athletes, we have size , shooters and an unstoppable offense.  They will get up-and-down the court and the first one open shoots.  Erin, Ashley and Coach Coale were knocking my selection of Jason Kidd at point guard, but he just wants to distirbute the ball. Plus he knows how to run with an athletic pack of players.

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Ashley Paris' Team


Isaiah Thomas
Jerry West
Reggie Miller
Magic Johnson
Charles Barkley
Hakeem Olajuwon
Dominque Wilkins
Scottie Pippen
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Dave Cowen

Starting Five: Not sure yet, we'll work it out in practice but Jerry West and Magic are in as the guards.

Why it is the best team: I tried to create a team, not a bunch of players.  We have role players, good teammates and lots of leadership.  Plus wer'e tall, long and versatile. I'm confident we would dominate. And Hakeem will dominate Shaq like he did in the 1995 NBA Finals.

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Erin Higgins' Team


Michael Jordan
"Pistol" Pete Maravich
Steve Nash
Bill Russell
David Robinson
Karl Malone
John Stockton
Wilt Chamberlain
Chris Mullin
John Havlicek

Starting Five: That will be decided in practice.

Why it is the best team: I went old school, smarts over athleticism.  Look at that squad full of old school ballers and the greatest ever, Michael Jordan.  We'll out-gameplan Courtney and Ashley's teams to death.

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The guys at will keep track of the votes and announce the winning team in a week.  Make the wise choice, because bragging rights in our house are on the line.

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Posted by Sherri Coale | Date: Sunday, Jan. 14, 2007 |
Coale Bio 
On December 30th, Courtney Paris scored 43 points and pulled down 25 rebounds in our win over New Mexico.  As I exited the floor at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City after conducting post game TV and radio interviews, the first person I saw was Jesse Greadington.   "Shoulders back!"  I said to him as we slapped a high five and exchanged a brief hug.  "You throw your shoulders back, my friend!"   His grin would have lit up a small city.

Jesse is a junior at the University of Oklahoma where he is a member of the JC Penney Leadership Class.  He is a member of  Crimson Club, a member of the Big 12 Governance of Black Student Congress, and he is a Conoco/Phillips Business School Scholar.  Jesse and I worship at the same congregation in Norman, where he comes in every Sunday somewhere around the middle of the first verse of the second hymn.   Jesse played high school basketball at Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa;  he's 6'5" , strong as a horse, and he guards Courtney Paris about two days a week, whether he feels like it or not.

Jesse is one of our "fellas".    He's what much of the basketball world refers to as a scout teamer.  He's what the NCAA calls a male practice player.  By definition that means he has paid for his own physical, he has registered with and been cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse (paid for that personally as well), he consistently passes a minimum of 12 hours per semester making him eligible for intercollegiate competition (though he can't compete),  and he has filled out enough certification paperwork to fill up a small upright filing cabinet.   He practices with us between and around classes.  Mostly he guards, but sometimes we make him get guarded, too.   For all of that we are allowed to tell him "thank you".  They are a special breed, our fellas.

We currently have a crew of about seven who attend practice as their class schedules allow; for most that's two or three days per week at best.   They are students at the University of Oklahoma who love to play ball.  Some are really, really fast.  Some are tall.  Some were high school all-staters (shout out to Brenden) who could have played at a lot of places but chose to attend OU for academic reasons, leaving their competitive athletic careers behind.  Some are just tough, well-coached high school athletes who won't ever get enough games regardless of the venue.  Some want to coach and therefore use their practice time with us as "internships" and really lucrative networking.    Others maybe weren't ever even all that good at the high school level, but they love to play, they will do whatever it is we ask of them, and they enjoy being a part of who we are.  We take all kinds, provided they check their ego at the door, and  they help us immeasurably.

They are not easy to find, these "fellas", and they are even more difficult to replace.  When they go they leave a hole, because the time they spend with us matters and they become a part of the fabric of our team.  We've even thought about creating a "Fellas' Hall of Fame" to honor them and give ourselves reason to bring them back from time to time.  It would give us an excuse to have a pick-up game of all pick-up gamesan enlargement of the heart opportunity for everyone who has ever been a gym rat (the people I am convinced the game of basketball was in fact created for, by the way). 

We began this "male practice player" thing because we needed bigger, stronger, faster players to compete against in practice so that we might be able to simulate Texas or Tennessee or Connecticut.  Back in the day, our first team couldn't simulate most of our opponents, much less our back ups!  So we improved by cutting our teeth daily against the fellas' skill and athleticism.  Then after awhile, it became something else.  It became a thing that gave us depthand legitimacyon a number of levels.  These guys who practiced, they went to class and told their friends.  Word got out.  The girls were pretty good.  The fellas would road trip to games and take their buddies with them.  They'd skip open gym at the Huff when we played in Norman, and slowly but surely women's basketball games became the place to be if you loved ball.  Our fellas started all that.  And they continue to pass it on.

Critics are circling their wagons these days, saying the use of male practice players takes opportunities away from women.  Ask my women who practice every day;  they will, TO A PLAYER , disagree.  Our fellas guard us so that we can compete as one.  Our fellas run our opponents' stuff so that we can all get repetitions on how we wish to defend.  Our fellas play post defense so that Courtney doesn't destroy Leah's body before conference play even begins. Our fellas go live against our back-ups when our bench needs the reps and our starters need fresh legs.  Our fellas run transition so that Kendra and Britney gain confidence together instead of at the expense of one another.  Ask my guys (those are my scholarship female student-athletes, by the way) how they feel about so called "opportunities lost" during practice time.  They thank our fellas before they leave the gym every day.   They so "get" this getting good thing.

When Jesse Greadington is 30, he will have a lot of cool stuff to tell his friends.  He is as involved of a college student in the whole experience of campus life as any kid I have ever known.  Through his involvement with student government, he has met dignitaries from all states and countries.  He will one day be able to tell his kids that he went to class with Adrian Peterson.  He will be able to say that one semester he went to France to study abroad.  He will also get to say that he helped make Courtney Paris one of, if not THE greatest women's basketball players ever to play the game.  And truthfully, whether or not he ever tells anyone will be immaterial.  The look on his face as he stood courtside at the Cox Center said it all.   I won't ever forget his expression as he stood there, hands in his pockets, shaking his head slightly from side to side as if to say, "Wow.  We all just got to witness something pretty spectacular."  He wasn't surprised.   He knew what she could do.  No one else knew.   Not the way he did anyway.  And no one in that building appreciated her performance any more than he did, I promise you.

It's almost like they're teammates, Courtney and Jesse.  And that's the best part of it all. It's genderless!  In our little world of women's basketball we have finally figured it out.  We are athletes.  We are a team getting as good as we can get using every available whetstone we can find. 

In both of my children's nursery rooms was the following framed quote:

"Come to the edge", He said.  They said, "We are afraid."  "Come to the edge," He said.  They came.  He pushed them. . . and they flew."  ~ Guillaume Apollinaire

I put it there to remind me of my charge.  I think of it now because I believe that the very marrow of Title IX is opportunity.  Opportunity to participate, opportunity to compete, opportunity to excel.  I don't think the legislation was created to monitor who pushes us.  I think it was created so that we could get a chance to fly.

Aiming at April. . .

**Special thanks to all our fellas . . .we take you with us as we go.

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Posted by Courtney Paris | Date: Tuesday, Dec. 13 |
Paris Bio

Two days ago I sat at my computer and I couldn't think of anything to write about.

"Sorry Chris, I've got nothing," Were my replies to his, "Is your blog ready?"

Things have changed and as I write this, I feel like the word blog means I don't have enough space to write everything down.

I'd been in a slump lately, in all facets of my life. No joy is what it feels like. It's not that I didn't have a reason to be happy, but I just get so down in one spot that I started to sink and forget what all those reasons were.

I know I shouldn't, but I get that way sometimes, I'm not always in a great mood or smilingI'm human.  But I was quickly reminded of why I'm a little bit lucky this past weekend and it has nothing to do with double-doubles. Instead, it was watching little boys wrestle; that's what I was doing Saturday afternoon- that's what I was doing when my life got a little bit better.

I went to watch Colton Hansmeyer (My assistant coach's 10-year-old nephew) wrestle the other day. And guys, I could not believe it. There were little boys wearing; I don't even know what to call them. Wrestle suits? They are spandex that go from your thighs and come up over your shoulders. Anyway these little guys looked so cute, others funny, some looked way too strong to be in elementary school, others too little to wrestle, nonetheless they were out there. The older guys (11, 12) had more technique, they'd throw their hands towards the face of the other guy, waiting to catch him off guard and take him down. All the little techniques for trying to get the pin and not get pinned were amazing. I mean really, who comes up with this stuff.

The little guys (4, 5, and 6) were adorable. The whistle would blow and they'd go right for the legs, slamming (okay slamming is a little intense of a word for what I actually witnessed but I'm going to keep it) each other to the mat. They'd hold and fight and fight and hold- don't let your shoulders hit the mat- make his shoulders hit the mat!

It was so funny, and scary and sad and competitive, oh my gosh I had so many different emotions. Sure enough, they'd go for five minutes. The winner would get the biggest smile on his face and high five everyon



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