Sooners sweep Big 12 Conference's sportsmanship prize.
June 3, 2009
IRVING, Texas -- Oklahoma's Blake Griffin and Ashley Paris were named the 2008-09 Big 12 Sportspersons of the Year, the conference announced Wednesday.
Griffin won the Naismith Trophy as the nation's top collegiate men's basketball player following his sophomore season while Paris was an honorable mention All-American as a senior on the women's basketball team.
The Sportspersons of the Year Award was started in 2000-01 to annually recognize student-athletes who displayed an extraordinary degree of sportsmanship and/or community service during the academic year. Paris and Griffin were selected by a media panel. The Big 12's recipients are nominated for the NCAA Sportsmanship Award.
Griffin, often the focus of opposing defenses, routinely walked away without retaliation in response to overly aggressive fouls aimed at limiting his impact, with several of these "hard" fouls resulting in ejection for the offending player. The sophomore forward became the face of Oklahoma basketball while continually deflecting the spotlight to his teammates. Griffin never refused an autograph request and often had to be led through back doors to reach the team bus.
Projected to be a top NBA draft pick, the Oklahoma City native did not neglect his academic responsibilities or role as a team leader. Griffin participated in several community service projects including stops at Children's Hospital in Oklahoma City and weekly visits to Norman elementary schools to read to children and perform other activities as requested by the teachers. He also served with Rebuilding Together, a local group that builds homes for the underprivileged.
Paris was voted by her peers as winner of the squad's Foxhole Award the past two seasons. The honor is bestowed on the player that is considered to be the best teammate on and off the court. The senior forward made the commitment prior to her final season to recreate herself in order to assist with the team's goal of reaching the Final Four. The goal was met as Oklahoma reached the national semifinals.
A last-second attempt that rolled off the rim kept the Sooners from advancing to the national championship game. In her final moments as a collegiate player, Paris rushed to console her teammate who had missed the final shot. She is credited with guiding OU's younger players throughout all facets of a successful program from practice to conditioning to game preparation.
The Piedmont, Calif., native has taken an active role in community service projects throughout the Norman-Oklahoma City metropolitan area. She has made visits to Children's Hospital in Oklahoma City and participated in child advocacy activities at Mary Abbott House in Norman, a non-residential shelter for abused children. Paris served as a "Sooner Big Sis" with weekly visits to Norman elementary schools while also volunteering for Special Olympics, Race for the Cure and Sooner Spectators.
BIG 12 SPORTSPERSONS OF THE YEAR
2001 -- Kim Woodlee, Kansas State; basketball
2002 -- Natalie Ritchie, Texas Tech; basketball
2003 -- Laura Pilakowski, Nebraska; volleyball
2004 -- Jessika Stratton, Baylor; basketball
2005 -- Richelle Simpson, Nebraska; gymnastics
2006 -- Jodie Heinicka, Missouri; gymnastics
2007 -- Amanda Costner, Kansas; golf
2008 -- Katie Martincich, Kansas; volleyball
2009 -- Ashley Paris, Oklahoma; basketball
2001 -- Dan Alexander, Nebraska; football
2002 -- Cael Sanderson, Iowa State; wrestling
2003 -- Jeff Leise, Nebraska; baseball
2004 -- Mark Clayton and Lynn McGruder, Oklahoma; football
2005 -- Ahmard Hall, Texas; football
2006 -- Parker Dalton, Texas A&M; baseball
2007 -- Carl Pendleton, Oklahoma; football
2008 -- Mamadou Diene, Baylor; basketball
2009 -- Blake Griffin, Oklahoma; basketball