Paul George and teammate Mychal Ladd pose for a picture during their freshmen year at Fresno State. (File Photo/The Collegian)
Paul George played basketball for Fresno State from 2008-10. Per game George averaged 15.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, two steals and nearly one block. He finished his time at Fresno State ranked No. 5 on the all-time Fresno State list for best 3-point-field goal percentage, No. 6 on the list best free-throw percentage and No. 36 on the all-time scoring list.
George has emerged as one of the top players in the NBA. He was drafted No. 10 in the first round by the Indiana Pacers in 2010. Many saw hints of potential in George’s game but never expected him to flourish and exceed all expectations.
George has faced many obstacles in his young career but none as scary as breaking his leg in a Team USA exhibition in 2014. At the time, George was a budding star, and though the future for him looked bleak, he remained focused and determined to come back stronger than ever. And that’s just what he did. In the 2015-2016 season, George led the Indiana Pacers to the playoffs with a 45-37 record and a No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference. George finished the season as the No. 12 leading scorer in the NBA. He was named to the All-NBA Third Team for the third time, the All-NBA Defensive Second Team for the second time and was voted to represent the Eastern Conference in the All-Star Game for the third time in his career.
This year George was selected to grace the cover of the popular EA Sports video game NBA 2K17.
Courtesy, Indiana Pacers/NBA Photos
On his journey to the NBA: It was a dream come true. You get to do what you love to do for a living. It was obviously a whirlwind coming from a small town, small city. Now being the man of the house immediately has its pros and cons, but it’s been a blessing. This journey has been a good trip each year. I feel like I’ve added something new, and I’ve had a bigger experience. I guess I’m doing this the right way.
On his time at Fresno State: I had a great time in Fresno. What people don’t know about Fresno is that it’s a huge city. It’s got a little bit of everything, from shopping to great restaurants, to it being like a little family-oriented city. I loved it. My time being on campus, from going to Doghouse [Grill], I crave that every now and then to be honest, something about that barbecue sauce. Fresno was amazing, man. If I had to do it again, I would pick Fresno again.
On overcoming his horrific leg injury in 2014: Really just having family around. It was a hard time going through it and just coping with it. Being a professional athlete and being at the highest level, being athletic and relying on your athleticism, then when you have an injury and now you rely on other people. You just have doubts that you’ll ever get back to being the same. I’m very fortunate that I was able to return back to form and be myself again. But it was a hard time for me, just coping with being dependent on someone else.
On NBA players who reached out to him following the injury: Yeah, there were a lot of guys. From Kobe, LeBron, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, I think I’ve spoken at some point to almost everyone in the NBA. It felt like every guy in the NBA that had reached out just told me that ‘Everything’s going to be OK, just go through the process of rehab and remain positive.’
Former Bulldog Paul George celebrates with teammates after winning the gold medal on Sunday, Aug. 21, 2016 at the Rio 2016 Olympics in Brazil. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)
On the Rio Olympics and winning a gold medal: The Olympics were fun. I think, with that group that we went with, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys to play with. Everybody was unselfish, and they really put everything into that team. One of the reasons why it made it so special, you just have so many different characters, so many different personalities, all bunched up into one jar, you’re going to have fun moments. But that was kind of like closing the chapter of that injury, playing for the USA team. So winning that gold was like closing that chapter and moving past that injury.
On former Bulldog Tyler Johnson and his four-year, $50 million deal he received this summer: Yeah, I congratulated him after he got the deal, and we spoke a little bit. I’m happy for him. He came into this league off talent, and he’s made a mark in this league now. He should be here for some time. I’m really, really proud of what Tyler has become.
On following Fresno State and if he watched as the team returned to the NCAA Tournament last season: Yeah, I did. I went to a game when they went to Oregon. I went to go watch. I got a chance to talk and sit with [the team] a little bit. Yeah, I keep with up my alma mater.
On what he hopes to accomplish when it’s all said and done: I want to be a champion first and foremost. I want to be the best player that I can be. I want kids to grow up and view me as someone they want to idolize their game after. Of course I want them to be better than me and strive to be better than me. But I want that same, you know, same way I grew up loving Kobe, loving watching T-Mac (Tracy McGrady), loving watching Penny Hardaway, I want to be that same stand-up guy for kids and that role model for kids to grow up to be as far as basketball-wise. But again, I want to be remembered as a champion and as a winner.
On representing Fresno State and being a Bulldog: It means everything. Honestly, I keep up with a couple of our other fellow Bulldogs. I keep up with Derek Carr and what he’s been doing. There’s also Greg Smith who I keep up with. We’re not the biggest school, we don’t get the biggest spotlight or whatnot. When you’re a Bulldog, if you make it from there you know you worked extremely hard and you’re driven. If you make it from there, you can make it from anywhere.
Current Fresno State basketball head coach Rodney Terry on Paul George
“Paul is a very proud Bulldog. He really is. He had a great experience here for two years. He keeps close track of what’s going on with our program. I think he’s really proud of where he played and what we’re doing right now.”
Illustration by Kaitlyn Lancaster