It’s a sunny but cold morning in Winston-Salem, Deac families, and your students are almost certainly hurrying and scurrying to get the last of their papers and projects completed and studying for whatever midterms they might have prior to leaving for Spring Break.
But this weekend, your students were packing the LJVM Coliseum for Senior Day for men’s basketball and the retiring of WFU superstar Chris Paul’s jersey. Chris Paul wore the #3 at Wake Forest, and was affectionately known as CP3. He was an incredible talent as a point guard and left after his sophomore year to go to the NBA. I think it’s safe to say he’s done OK there 🙂
There are only a handful of jerseys that have been retired, and they are all WFU greats. At the end of this post you can see from Wikipedia who they are. CP3’s jersey now hangs in the rafters among the very best of the best, or as our fight song says “O here’s to Wake Forest, a glass of the finest.” To make the event more festive, there were CP3 shirts in the stands and also cut-outs of Chris’ face, with a stick to hold up to your face. Great stuff for students.
WFU alumni have loved Chris Paul from the moment he first stepped on campus. It would be really hard not to like this young man. I had met his parents through their involvement as volunteers, and they are the salt of the earth. They raised their sons to be polite and respectful, and even when he was an incredible phenom, he never failed to put a “Ms.” before my name or say “ma’am.”
The story about him scoring 61 points – one for each year of his murdered grandfather’s life – in a high school game is legendary. He has honored the memory of his grandfather in many ways, including a scholarship fund at Wake Forest. And CP3 remains committed to Winston-Salem. He has a foundation that does a lot of great work in the area with and for kids, including basketball and bowling tournaments. He comes back, and he gives back. And he is finishing his WFU degree, slowly but surely. He said that leaving school to go to the NBA was one of the hardest decisions he had to make. But he is committed to his WFU diploma. I can’t wait to see him walk across that stage.
So on Saturday, it was pure joy to see him with his beautiful wife and his young son sitting courtside. If you saw the game on TV and they panned to the crowd, you might have seen the giant faces of our players (and some other characters like Ron Burgundy or Zack Galifianakis) being held up during foul shots. Chris’ young son – who looked to be about 2 – kept pointing to the giant face of his dad, or the handheld signs. A very cute moment.
If you follow Chris on Facebook or Twitter, he is quick to talk about his children (they also have a young daughter), and it is clear how much he loves his kids. His adorable son was all suited up in grey and was impressively well-behaved for a toddler, even at halfcourt during the jersey retiring.
CP3 was touching when he made a brief speech after his jersey was unveiled. He said he had no idea where it would hang, and was pleased that he is right next to the banner for his late and much-beloved coach, Skip Prosser. He credited Coach Prosser with everything he has achieved. If ever there was a moment to tear up, that was it.
The Winston-Salem Journal has a nice article about his jersey retiring. What those words can’t capture, though, was the feeling in the Joel. All 14,000+ who were there were just so happy for him, happy to see him home.
Great day for Wake.