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Chris Paul heads into Wake Forest Hall of Fame: "When I first got to Wake, this was the furthest thing from my mind."
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Chris Paul heads into Wake Forest Hall of Fame: "When I first got to Wake, this was the furthest thing from my mind."

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It was Chris’ night to be inducted into the Wake Forest Hall of Fame and nobody was going to miss it. The two brothers had their wives, their kids and their mom (Robin) and dad (Charles) dressed to the nines for the occasion.

“This is special, man,” Chris, 36, said Friday night before the festivities began.

The first family of Winston-Salem and Lewisville was going to enjoy the night because Chris, who played two seasons for the late Skip Prosser from 2003 to 2005, had reached a place where he never thought he’d be.

“When I first got to Wake, this was the furthest thing from my mind,” Paul said of reaching the school’s Hall of Fame. “I mean, I just wanted to play ball, get a great education and try and win a national championship.”

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Chris Paul, far right, and his family pose for a picture before the Wake Forest Hall of Fame festivities on Friday.

Paul left after his sophomore season as a top-five pick in the NBA and will start his 17th season next month when training camp opens with the Phoenix Suns. He guided the Suns to his first NBA Finals last season, a loss in six games to Milwaukee.

He found it hard to believe that it’s been 16 years since he left Wake Forest, but despite his world-wide fame, extreme wealth and being recognized as one of the best basketball players on the planet, he loves being home and being around family.

“I mean, how could I not share this with my family because they mean everything to me,” Paul said. “And especially to have my two kids here to sort of take this all in is a big deal.”

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Six athletes were enshrined into Wake Forest’s Hall of Fame on Friday night.

Others from Paul’s extended family were also on hand, with about 35 members there at Joel Coliseum to see him achieve yet another honor. He’ll eventually be inducted in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, but his college years were also memorable and meaningful for his development.

“We are just so blessed as a family and to see Chris get this honor and it’s something we are proud about,” said Charles, who has loved having both of his sons and their families in town this weekend. “We’ve got a full house and it’s been great.”

In his speech, Chris talked about the affinity he had for his hometown and how during his high school career at West Forsyth he got to play several times at Joel Coliseum. He also had his high school graduation at Joel Coliseum in spring of 2003 where he was the class president.

“This is home,” Paul said.

In his senior season at West Forsyth his grandfather, Nathanial Jones, was murdered in Winston-Salem. And it was at the funeral that Paul realized he had chosen the right school and the right coach to play for.

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“We are at the funeral and who comes in but the entire team and the coaching staff,” Paul said, “and that’s when I knew how special this place was.”

Paul, who is the president of the NBA Players Association, could likely one day run for office thanks to his people skills and his ability to listen to others. The 11-time All-Star signed a four-year contract extension with the Suns that will pay him $120 million, so any talk about a career after his playing days will have to wait.

His desire to win an NBA championship is as strong as ever.

As for getting into the Wake Forest Hall of Fame, he credits Josh Howard and Prosser with helping him get there.

It was when Paul was growing up that he saw Howard, who is five years older, stay in his hometown and have great success for the Deacons. That helped Paul decide where he was going to college.

“I’ve told Josh this before, but he stayed right here in Winston and I saw that and I wanted to do the same thing,” Paul said.

Prosser died at the age of 56 of a heart attack in Paul’s second season in the NBA in 2007.

“Man, I just wish Coach was here tonight,” Paul said. “I think that’s probably the toughest part about this, is that he’s not here to see this.”

Both played on the ACC championship football team in 2006

Because Paul left after his sophomore season, he hasn’t been able to earn his degree yet, but is working toward that. He’s taking classes at Winston-Salem State in his limited spare time and, according to his mother, he has 30 hours to go.

“I’m still working toward it and I’ll get there,” Paul said.

It’s a promise that Paul made to his mother that he would eventually graduate.

“We got this,” Robin said about her son closing in on his college degree.

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@johndellWSJ

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