The Norman Transcript

June 3, 2009

A chance to relish the memory

Blake Griffin, Ashley Paris honored

Clay Horning

Nobody’s going to remember Blake Griffin and Ashley Paris were named the Big 12’s Sportspersons of the Year, which they happened to be Wednesday.

Perhaps, because a couple of Sooners won in tandem, some will recall, though it’s doubtful. Because in big-time college sports, for better or worse, it’s not the citizenship everybody remembers.

The Naismith award, the Heisman of college basketball, which Griffin picked up after a sophomore season for the ages, people might remember. That Courtney Paris has a twin sister, a pretty fair player in her own right, name of Ashley, people will remember.

Or that Griffin was the biggest reason OU returned to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2003 and Ashley Paris was a big reason the Sooners returned to the Final Four after seven seasons away, people will remember.

This, not really.

Just like nobody remembers last year’s winners, Kansas volleyballer Katie Martincich and Baylor basketballer Mamadou Diene.

Fine sportsmanship and community service will always be appreciated, but will never be very sexy. When you think about it, that may only increase the honor bestowed upon Griffin and Paris by the conference. And still, given a little time, it will nonetheless be forgotten.

Just not today.

Today is one more chance, brought to you by the Big 12, to remember Griffin and Paris and not simply for what they did on the court — though, for the purposes of this column, not really what they did off of it, either, despite taking part in so many community projects and charities — but for what made them unique and great stories and pleasures to deal with.

I spent a lot more time watching Griffin play than covering him. That time of the year, I draw Sherri Coale’s Sooner women as a perpetual assignment. But nobody had to cover Griffin to realize he was making history.

It wasn’t that he was having the kind of collegiate season hardly anybody could remember anybody else having, averaging more than 22 points and 14 rebounds a game, instead it was how much better he got from one year to the next and how much crap he took along the way from the opposition without ever retaliating.

Griffin fantastically and simultaneously served as a model of self-improvement and self-control.

Paris wasn’t far off on the same two counts.

The one time she offered a number to the weight she lost and the physique she gained, it was 40, as in pounds. And she never quit working on her game and it showed in a buffet line of options she had to choose from whenever she caught the ball in the lane.

Courtney Paris will forever be the best post in the history of OU women’s basketball, but it is her sister who may forever be recognized as the most varied at the position.

Ashley could back up and take a 3, roll right for a hook or left for a finger roll. Some thought she might be drafted higher than her sister, though it didn’t happen. Now, who becomes the better pro is an interesting question to ponder. It’s hard to know, but given the work ethic and discipline she epitomized at OU, it’s easy to figure she’ll be every bit the player she’s destined to be.

Griffin should be too.

Oh, for him to get the chance in Oklahoma City.

Thunder fans can hope.

Sooner fans can say goodbye one more time, knowing two of their favorites have received their due.

Clay Horning