REGION — A 6-foot-tall man clad in Jordan-brand apparel stood in the center of Alliant International University on Monday afternoon.
If you weren’t an NBA fan, you might wonder why a man of such modest stature commanded the attention of the 100 or so young basketball players seated at his feet, hanging on his every word.
That man was seven-time NBA All Star point guard Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Paul, 29, was a guest speaker at the Jared Dudley Camp of Opportunity, a local camp for elite players hosted by Jared Dudley, Paul’s Clippers teammate and a former San Diego Section player of the year at Horizon High School.
Dudley’s camp, in its second year, attracts top middle school and high-school players from across San Diego — including a number from North County — who participate in skill drills and competitive games. It also included several NBA guests, including Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker.
Dudley created the camp to give San Diego basketball players the opportunity to showcase their talents, while also learning from professional basketball player what it requires to play basketball at its highest levels.
But the highlight of the camp was Paul, one of the NBA’s biggest superstars, who imparted pearls of advice for the pubescent ears, including respecting the game and its teachers, continuing to pursue your dreams despite not having early success (Paul didn’t start play or start on his varsity team until his junior year in high school) being a selfless player and preparing for life beyond basketball.
“If I play another seven years in the league, I will have played 17 years…I’ll be 36,” Paul said. “I’ll have a lot of life to live. As they say, that ball is gonna stop bouncing, so you gotta have something to fall back on.”
Paul’ words resonated with Edoardo Fenzi, a 15-year-old who just finished his freshman year at Army and Navy Academy in Carlsbad. Fenzi, a point guard for the Warriors, said he learned both how to be a better point guard and how to plan in case his hoop dreams die.
“It was a great experience having Chris Paul there, he knows how to lead his team,” Fenzi said. “A point guard should be the loudest player on the court, and he is.
“But I also learned that basketball I just a game and we need to have that back-up plan in case our dreams don’t come true,” said Fenzi, whose goal is to play basketball professionally. “I learned that you have to work as hard as you can on your game and make sure that you are the best player you know you can be, but choose a job and a career goal in addition to basketball.”