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June 15, 2009

Court to classroom

Once a standout athlete herself, local woman's work helps today's athletes achieve off the field

Sports have always been a part of Teresa Turner's life, first while watching her older sisters and brother play and hearing her father talk about his college basketball career.

Then came her own basketball days at Norman High and the University of Oklahoma and the professional career of her brother, Clifford Ray Jr. She married her college sweetheart who was a professional football player, and now their daughters have made names for themselves as standout basketball players.

Add to that the fact that Turner's work life concentrates on the academic needs of players on the OU football team. As assistant director of athletic academic affairs, she has worked under four head football coaches and has established relationships with hundreds of Sooner football players.

The students find the photos and clippings which adorn the walls of her office fascinating, and they listen with new respect when they realize that her words of guidance come from her own experiences as a student-athlete.

Born in South Carolina, she came to Norman while a high school student. Her brother, Clifford Ray Jr., was recruited to play at OU, and their parents visited Norman several times during his career here.

"He always said that when he made the pros, he would buy our parents a house," words that were greeted by laughter from his five siblings, she said.

"But when he was playing for the Chicago Bulls, he told our parents to pick a location and he would buy a house."

Remembering the good times they had had in Norman, the Rays chose to move here from their Union, S.C., home with the youngest two of their six children.

"I was in the 10th grade and didn't want to leave, so they let me live with an aunt and finish my 10th grade year," Turner said.

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