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Former Wake Forest star Chris Paul relishes his chance to play in home state
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Former Wake Forest star Chris Paul relishes his chance to play in home state

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Coming back to his home state to play basketball never gets old for Chris Paul.

The 36-year-old point guard did what he’s done throughout his hall of fame career on Sunday night by leading the Phoenix Suns to a 133-99 win over the Charlotte Hornets at the Spectrum Center.

It was vintage Paul, a Winston-Salem native who grew up in Lewisville. He guided the Suns to the easy win with seven points, 16 assists, six rebounds and a steal in 26 minutes.

“It’s always fun,” Paul said on a Zoom interview with journalists after the game. “To see so many familiar faces, and I only get to play here once a year, and this is my 17th year (in the NBA) and every year having my family here is great.”

Paul, who guided the Suns to the NBA Finals last season where they lost to the Milwaukee Bucks, has the Suns playing at a high level again. They have the second-best record in the NBA (28-8) behind the Golden State Warriors, and Sunday’s game against the Hornets was one of their best of the season.

Suns Hornets Basketball

Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul, left, a former standout at West Forsyth and Wake Forest, helped lead Phoenix to a blowout win against the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday night.

Paul, who is taking classes online at Winston-Salem State in hopes of earning his college degree in communication, starred at West Forsyth and then at Wake Forest for two seasons before being a first-round draft pick after his sophomore season in 2005.

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Paul, who is the only NBA player in history to have more than 20,000 career points and 10,000 career assists, relishes his one chance a season to play in North Carolina. He’s been an NBA All-Star 11 times, a two-time gold medal winner for the U.S. in the Olympics, and is one of the marquee players in the league as he seemingly gets better with age.

“To play here at home and for my parents and especially my grandparents here is special,” he said. “This is my 17th year in the league and my family has been here for every one of the games here in Charlotte since 2005. They were even here in a couple of those where I was injured and didn’t play.”

Paul, who was inducted into the Wake Forest Hall of Fame this past September, didn’t have to play a lot of minutes on Sunday night thanks to the blowout. He had 10 assists by halftime as he controlled the flow of the game. He took some extra time to look around at the Spectrum Center in the second half.

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Chris Paul guided the Phoenix Suns to the NBA Finals last summer.

“I saw a lot of West Forsyth jerseys and a lot of Wake Forest people as well,” Paul said. “And my wife (Jada) is from Charlotte, so it’s nice to be home for a few days.”

Paul, who also played football during his middle-school years, said he followed closely what the Wake Forest football team did this past season.

“Absolutely I was following them,” Paul said about the Demon Deacons 11-3 finish after easily beating Rutgers in the Gator Bowl on New Year’s Eve. “I hated it when they lost in the ACC championship (to Pittsburgh), but it was a great season, and it was great seeing them play so well.”

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