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Aug. 15, 2012
Steve Phillips, Associate Director of Communications for the Atlantic Coast Conference, catches up with Chris Paul at the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro.
GREENSBORO, N.C. (theACC.com) - Just three days removed from his second Olympic Gold medal, Chris Paul could still be thrilled and awed.
When the former Wake Forest All-America basketball star checked in at Sedgefield Country Club for the Wyndham Championship Pro-Am on Wednesday, he learned his group would be captained by PGA star and fellow ACC alum Davis Love III.
"I've had an opportunity to play a lot of basketball all over the world, but when I found out I got paired with Davis, I was like a little kid - excited," Paul exclaimed. "To actually meet him and see that he's an even better guy than everybody talks about on TV was a pretty good feeling."
Paul was willing to overlook the fact Love attended rival North Carolina. Same with Carl Pettersson, the 2008 Wyndham Champion who attended NC State and graduated from nearby Grimsley High in Greensboro.
"It's crazy for me to find out more and more people are from North Carolina," said Paul, who grew up in nearby Lewisville, N.C. "I had an opportunity to meet Carl before I started my round today when he came up and introduced himself ... like I didn't know him. He told me he's from the Carolinas and grew up here. I got excited. I'm like, `Where? I've been here my whole life.'
"It's pretty cool to know that these famous people are from the same area that I'm from. Same thing with Davis. Even though he went to that `other' school, I told him I wouldn't hold that against him."
A five-time NBA All-Star and a consensus All-America selection while at Wake Forest, Paul called the recent gold medal run by the USA Men's Basketball Team in London the highlight of his career. It marked Paul's third medal as a member of a U.S. National team led by Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, including his first Olympic gold medal at the 2008 Games in Bejiing.
"Playing for Coach K is easy now, but 2006 was my first time playing on the National Team with Coach K (at the FIBA World Championship in Japan)," Paul recalled. "It was tough. I was one year removed from college. He was still the enemy, you know."
Those feelings faded quickly.
"Now knowing him on a personal basis, knowing his wife and family, (assistant) coach Chris Collins and Wojo (Steve Wojciechowkski) ... those guys are my family for life. For life.
"I truly love Coach K and his family and everything he stands for. When you're in college you don't really know each other. The only thing I knew from him was he was sitting on the other bench at Cameron Indoor Stadium."
All of the emotions surrounding this year's Olympic gold medal have not fully registered, but Paul knows he will have one lasting memory of last Sunday's 107-100 win over Spain in the title game.
"(It was) that last huddle in the fourth quarter, (Krzyzewski) pulled all the guys in and told us, `We represent more than just us. We represent everyone at home that's cheering and celebrating for us, and we've come way too far to lose.' "
Paul, 27, could conceivably go after a third Olympic gold medal in 2016.
"I will take that up with my wife and my kids at the time," Paul said. "I'm not sure, but I probably would say yes. There's nothing like playing on that team and being able to represent your country."
Despite his newly kindled friendships with Love and Pettersson, Paul's rooting interests this weekend will ultimately lie with fellow Demon Deacon Webb Simpson.
"We were good friends in college," Paul said. "He was actually roommates with one of my really good friends, Cameron Stanley, and I knew his wife, Dowd, also really well."
Paul, entering his second year with the Los Angeles Clippers, was a member of the New Orleans Hornets in the spring of 2011, when Simpson suffered a playoff loss to Bubba Watson in the Zurich Classic at nearby Avondale, La.
"I walked all 18 holes with Webb when he had that tough loss to Bubba," Paul said. "We text often and different things like that, and I'm just happy to see Webb playing great because he's one of the guys that absolutely deserves it."
But excuse Paul if both basketball and golf are blurs by this weekend. Paul and his wife Jada are expecting the birth of their second child - on Thursday.
"Let's say I have a great wife," Paul said in explaining his presence on a golf course Wednesday. "She knew how much this meant to me to come down here and be a part of this. She's O.K. I talked to her since we finished (Wednesday's round), and the good thing about it is that this is basically home for me.
"I'm 20 minutes away from home, so when my brother was walking around the course, his phone was on vibrate. It wasn't on ring but it was on vibrate, just in case she called and I had to run off the tee."