Ready to Fit In

Written by Andrew Nicholson
May 13, 2009

Courtney Paris

Courtney Paris has dominated every level of basketball she's ever played.

With a history of averaging double-doubles dating back to her freshman days at Modesto Christian High School, it doesn't seem ridiculous when Monarchs fans and members of the media ask her if she will be able to bring her remarkable double-digit averages to the WNBA.

Humble and focused on just trying to put her best foot forward at Monarchs training camp, which tips off next week, Paris is quick to say she's simply hopeful to make a contribution to the team that boasts a handful of WNBA Championship ring bearers.

First-round WNBA draft picks aren't guaranteed a roster spot, and despite confidence in herself and her game, the agile and strong 6-foot-4 center doesn't want to get ahead of the game.

Despite her familiarity with ARCO Arena and Northern California, she's in new territory.

At every level, Paris has been her team's leader both vocally and on the stat sheet. She's used to the limelight. She's also used to the ultimate success of her team being dependent on her offensive and defensive talents.

Now, she's amongst the best women's basketball players in the world. Her prep career stats, many of which are records, don't help when she's battling the women she grew up learning from on TV -- Cheryl Ford and Lisa Leslie.

And she's the first to acknowledge as much.

"Coach Jenny, I'd call her Coach and her last name, but I don't know if I ever say it correctly," Paris says smiling as she exposes a glimpse of her humility. "Says she just wants me to come in and be a part of the puzzle. And I'm excited about that."

Make no mistake, Paris has every intention of averaging a double-double for the Sacramento team she grew up watching, someday, but she prefers to prepare for the present, and take care of securing her spot on the roster first.

Her respect for the game and the current Monarchs roster is testament to the character head coach Jenny Boucek described when she said it wasn't just Paris' game but personality that would fit in well with the defensive-minded Monarchs.

There is, of course, a catch.

Along with being the seventh overall selection, Paris has speaking and media obligations, which are especially abundant thanks to her nearby roots and having a father, Bubba Paris, who won three Super Bowl Championships with the 49ers.

So in 24 hours, Paris has eight meetings to attend. All of them require her to answer questions about herself and share her thoughts on how she can help the Monarchs fight for a second Championship.

Not a problem for the outgoing and friendly rookie.

However, two things arise that make it difficult to live in the present and remain humble. A) Paris has to answer the same three-to-seven questions at each event and B) In her mind, and in reality; she hasn't made the team yet. So while she has no trouble answering the questions at each event, where she displays her charm and sense of humor, she is reminded multiple times over she has to tryout for a team for the first time in as long as she can remember.

Even for the greatest athlete and most confident basketball player, the uncertainty creates butterflies.

That is the enhanced beauty of the League -- 11 roster spots create greater competition and parity.

To keep those butterflies at bay, Paris has taken to the Bay Area, where she and her older twin sister have hired longtime family friend "Mrs. Baker" to ensure they arrive at training camp, for the Monarchs and Los Angeles Sparks respectively, in peak nutritional and physical form.

Her size is, expectedly, one of those three-to-seven questions. Not seasoned long enough to have a canned answer, she admits the difficulties of her new training and eating regimen. But she's serious about making the team and knows she needs to make changes to her body to be effective in the WNBA, which has always been her dream, so she remains steadfast.

To aid her rapid transition from college student to WNBA hopeful, Paris asks questions at every stop along the way of her whirlwind 24-hour tour. She absorbs the business side of the WNBA while also learning as much as possible from other healthy eaters, and everything in between. By the end of the final event, Paris has left a considerable impression on those with whom she has interacted, while also educating herself.

Basketball is no longer an avenue for education, its Paris' profession, and the on-the-job training began the moment WNBA President Donna Orender announced her favorite WNBA team selected her in the first round.

Though the test of training camp will be grueling, if her preparation and ambition are any sign of her present and future, success appears to be as likely as the new heights her and Ashley can take the Monarchs-Sparks rivalry.

Welcome to Sacramento, Courtney.