The Jumbo Dozen released its coaches’ picks for the preseason women’s basketball awards, and I’ll say right off that I don’t like that coaches are not able to vote for their own players. That forces them sometimes, for example, to vote for someone they absolutely do not think is player of the year. What’s the point?
Anyhow, Oklahoma center Courtney Paris is the Big 12’s preseason player of the year (although Sherri Coale couldn’t vote for her) and I got that weird feeling seeing “SR” next to her name. She’s a senior? Already? Oh, I am sure the other Big 12 coaches do not feel that way at all, as they are sick of trying to figure out how to defend the most physically overwhelming player in the history of Big 12 women’s basketball. They would have liked her to turn “pro” three years ago.
Whether Courtney and her also-very-talented twin Ashley will achieve their dream of taking the Sooners to the program’s second Final Four … I don’t know. Doing preseason predictions always annoys me because so much is unknown until teams get into conference season. That’s where you really get a feel for how good any group is.
What I do know is that Courtney Paris is exactly what everyone wants student-athletes to be, and so is Ashley.
Know what else? Sometimes I find myself thinking of Venus and Serena Williams when I see Courtney and Ashley. And that’s for a couple of reasons.
One, it’s fascinating watching relationships between siblings who compete at the same thing but yet are completely supportive of each other. Of course, Venus and Serena actually have to play AGAINST each other sometimes for real, not just practice. And I’ve never found that very comfortable to watch. But the point is, whether they are on opposite sides of the net or one is watching the other, their bond is never even stretched. It’s as tight and resolute as ever.
But second, these are four examples of athletes who have so much else going on in their heads. Venus and Serena have multiple interests, and many observers think that’s actually why they are both still so successful at tennis. It doesn’t dominate all their thoughts, and so there remains a “freshness” to their passion for their sport.
As for the Paris twins, Coale explains that they are the kind of players who one day she’ll want to have lunch with and just talk to about any and all topics. And if you’ve ever read the poetic eloquence of Coale’s on-line diaries and blogs, you know that holding your own at a table with her takes some considerable mental capacity.
Now, as for the coaches’ All-Big 12 first team, Courtney the Double-Double Machine leads four seniors in that group. The others are Kansas State’s Shalee Lehning, Nebraska’s Kelsey Griffin and Texas A&M’s Takia Starks. The fifth player is Oklahoma State’s Andrea Riley.
It’s a talented group, but each has at least one question mark that could be tagged to her going into the season. For Paris, it’s can she carry the Sooners further in the postseason. For Lehning, it’s her perimeter shooting. For Griffin, it’s her health. For Starks, it’s her consistency at both ends. And for Riley, it’s her temper.