All in the athletic family

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It's easy to see where some of the players with big-time family genes in this year's NCAA women's tournament got their passion for the game.

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Abi Olajuwon:  Oklahoma's center traveled with her father, Hakeem, and looked to him for teaching when her interest increased.  AP / File
AP / File
Abi Olajuwon: Oklahoma's center traveled with her father, Hakeem, and looked to him for teaching when her interest increased.

Abi Olajuwon, Meg Bulger and Carlee Roethlisberger grew up around famous relatives.

Courtney Paris and twin sister Ashley were too young to see their NFL All-Pro father play, and tragedy came between Candice Wiggins and her dad, but tremendous athletic ability was there to be molded.

All five players will be in action when Stanford, Oklahoma and West Virginia compete in the women's NCAA Tournament that begins Saturday. If fans look closely, they just might see some family ties.

The 6-foot-4 Olajuwon traveled with father Hakeem when he was playing for the Houston Rockets and becoming one of the NBA greats. She didn't really start playing basketball until late.

While she got a late start, catching up wasn't that difficult.

"I had a good teacher, so it balances out," said Olajuwon, a sophomore reserve center for Oklahoma who averages 3.2 rebounds in 6.3 minutes a game.

Olajuwon isn't the best-known Sooner who comes from an athletic family.

Courtney Paris, a 6-4 All-American center, and 6-3 sister Ashley, a junior forward, have been around sports for as long as they can remember. Their father, Bubba, won three Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers.

"I think just when you grow up in a family with people who value athletics and value the time that can be put into it to really become as good as you can be, you know how important it is and you see the passion in it," Courtney said. "If you're for it, then you're going to be a better player."

Courtney was the National Player of the Year as a sophomore and recorded a double-double in a record 90 consecutive games.

Sometimes, though, getting out of the family's shadow is a little tougher. Carlee Roethlisberger is the Sooners' 6-1 freshman forward. Big brother Ben led the Pittsburgh Steelers to the 2006 Super Bowl title and just signed a multimillion-dollar contract.

"I always want to make a name for myself," Carlee said. "I want to do my own things, but I don't mind being Ben's sister just because I'm so proud of him."

They aren't the only Roethlisbergers with an athletic background. Their father, Ken, played football and baseball at Georgia Tech and mom Brenda played and coached basketball as well.

Like Roethlisberger, Meg Bulger grew up surrounded by athletic family. Older sister Kate was the No. 4 career-leading scorer at West Virginia. Marc, one of her three brothers, is a quarterback for the St. Louis Rams.

"(My brothers and sister) taught me how to be tough, and how to work hard and be disciplined," said Bulger, a 6-0 forward known for her 3-point shooting. You don't realize it then, but I look back now and realize how beneficial it was for me."

Wiggins now stars at Stanford. She really didn't get to know her father, former major league baseball player Alan Wiggins. After years of abusing drugs he died of complications from AIDS at 32, about a month before Candice turned 4.

Wiggins, a 5-11 guard, will be trying to lead Stanford back to the Final Four for the first time since 1997. Since her freshman year she committed herself to restoring her father's image. She wore a T-shirt for practice early that season that read: "No doubt about it. My health. My sport. My victory. I compete clean."

"That will always be my legacy and his legacy, just making sure we can be good role models for people," said Wiggins, also referring to big brother, Alan, who played at the University of San Francisco. "The situation I'm in, using it to motivate people, and if my story inspires anyone then that's great."

IN BRIEF


A New Jersey lawmaker wants the NCAA to investigate the Rutgers-Tennessee game won by the Lady Vols amid a dispute over whether the clock paused, allowing a foul and game-winning free throws.


- The University of Connecticut said it self-reported a secondary violation of NCAA rules involving the recruiting of basketball player Maya Moore from Suwanee, Ga.


The violation occurred in 2005, when the women's basketball office arranged for Moore to tour the studios of ESPN in Bristol.

-- Associated Press


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