NBA 75: Chris Paul found his game at Wake Forest, en route to NBA stardom (TSN Archives)

The NBA celebrates the players on the NBA 75 roster almost daily from now until the end of the season. Today’s honoree is Chris Paul, the 2006 NBA Rookie of the Year. Before being an 11-time (and counting) NBA All-Star, Paul was finding his game with the late Skip Prosser at Wake Forest. Here are three of the first times Paul’s name appeared in The Sporting News.

College basketball at home plate

November 17, 2003, issue

Wake Forest won’t rush rookie PG Chris Paul into the lineup, even though he’s been everything coaches hoped for in preseason practices. Paul is a natural leader, he’s quickly dominating plays and isn’t afraid to express himself with more experienced teammates. However, with junior Taron Downey making 41 career starts, Paul will have to gradually earn a starting job. That will help keep the pressure on the gifted newcomer to a minimum. Wake is using Jamaal Levy 6-9 at small forward, but he can also use Downey, Paul and sophomore Justin Gray in a small-three lineup at times.

College Basketball Insider: Who is Chris Paul?

December 15, 2003, number

As if the first game-clincher of Paul’s career — 20 points and eight assists in Wake Forest’s 100-67 win over Indiana last week — wasn’t strong enough, Hoosiers coach Mike Davis offered this. “I think Chris Paul may be the best point guard we’ve played since I’ve been in Indiana.” Not bad, considering the Davis Hoosiers have faced Ford, Jay Williams and Dee Brown.

A native of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Paul was one of the most celebrated recruits in Wake Forest history. His coach, Skip Prosser, says, “He’s the class president type. If Chris Paul never played another second of basketball for us, Wake Forest would be a better place to have him around!”

Wake, off to a 5-0 start, lost All-American Josh Howard from last year’s ACC champion team but won back all the other key contributors, including emerging sophomores Eric Williams and Justin Gray. Although point guard Taron Downey returned, Paul has been starting Wake’s offense about 70 percent of the time.

He sees the entire floor and will take whatever is available to him. Make big decisions. In his first five games, he had 29 assists for seven turnovers. Read the screens well. Big Quidi ty; there is nothing wild about his game. He has a deep offensive repertoire and extra gear, which makes it difficult to pick him up all over the floor.

He has to be poked to look for his shot. We told him we were more dangerous when we weren’t playing four against five, says Prosser. Opponents have to respect him from 3-point range, but he still has to show that he’s a great shooter. Paul is strong defending the ball, but he tends to look at the ball and lose his man or his positioning. Although deceptively strong, it lacks great size (60, 168).

“Chris reminds me of TJ Ford, just the way they control the pace of the game. It’s hard to find a real point guard, and Chris is a pure point guard. I saw him in high school and I know he can shoot. But his deal is to make let the people have the ball.” —Kyle Veltrop

College basketball at home plate

December 29, 2003, number

Wake Forest PG Chris Paul is so selfless that coach Skip Prosser had to warn the up-and-coming freshman that opponents would guard the Deacons 5-on-4 if Paul didn’t stop passing open shots. He averaged 16.8 points in his next four games.