Good as Gold
Paul George becomes the 20th Olympic medalist from Fresno State
by Eddie Hughes
While helping the USA team win all eight of its games over two weeks against the best basketball-playing countries in the world, Paul George closed the book on his recovery from a gruesome broken leg suffered while playing with the national team two years earlier.
Team USA’s 96-66 win over Serbia on Aug. 24 in Rio de Janeiro earned George and his teammates Olympic gold medals with an average margin of victory of 32.1 points per game. George finished fourth on the team in scoring with 11.3 points per game and led the team with 12 steals.
Since leaving Fresno State after his sophomore year to become the 10th overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, George has developed into the Indiana Pacers’ best player and a three-time NBA all-star. And he’s the first former Bulldogs basketball player to win Olympic gold.
Overall, Fresno State has been represented in the Olympics 37 times by 26 different athletes and one coach, earning 14 gold medals.
George (aka PG13) gave FresnoState Magazine an exclusive interview after a USA exhibition win against China at Oracle Arena in Oakland on July 27.
FresnoState Magazine: What does it mean to you to represent your country in the Olympics?
Paul George: It means a lot. Coming from a small city and small town [Palmdale], probably being the only Olympian to compete for a gold from my city, it’s remarkable. I’ve always dreamed of this since I was a kid.
FS Mag: You overcame the leg injury a couple years back playing with the USA team. What was the toughest part of the rehab?
PG: The toughest part is it’s tedious work. You’re doing the same exercise, same workout, day after day, time after time, and you constantly have to find the motivation through it all to want to attack that rehab. You’re going to deal with pain, you’re going to deal with discomfort. That’s part of it and you understand that.
FS Mag: The Red Wave remembers you as one of the all-time greats at Fresno State — what one thing did you learn in college that has helped you the most in your NBA career?
PG: I think it’s just patience. My time at Fresno State, I had to just be patient. Being thrown out there as a freshman, I got the chance to play right away and learn, but I had to be patient. I had to learn how to get better and learn that work ethic. It’s a lot of stuff thrown at you in college, but I think the work ethic and patience is what stuck with me.
FS Mag: Describe what it’s like to know you’re not only representing your country in the Olympics, but you’re representing your family, the Pacers, your hometown Palmdale and your University. What’s it feel like to have so many people pulling for you?
PG: It’s great, man, to have people be able to live through this experience with me, whether it’s people I’ve come in contact with physically or they have that connection because of the cities I’m from, that I represent. It’s great to be the face of that and to represent for them.
FS Mag: In your two years at Fresno State, the team had some struggles on the court. But last year, Fresno State won the Mountain West and returned to the NCAA tourney. How did it feel for you to see your school in the Big Dance?
PG: It’s real good. I think what coach Rodney Terry is doing at Fresno State is unbelievable. And it’s only going to get better the more and more guys he gets in those jerseys. It makes me proud to be an alumnus, and especially now being one of the faces of Fresno State to the extent of where I’ve gotten to. I think kids now look at Fresno State as a real destination and it just makes me feel good. Go ’Dogs!
Bulldogs Olympic Medalists All-time
Gold: Laura Berg, Kim Maher, Martha Noffsinger-O’Kelley, Julie Smith, Shelly Stokes, Margie Wright (assistant coach)
Gold: Laura Berg, Amanda Scott,
Gold: Laura Berg, Lovie Jung
Silver: Laura Berg, Lovie Jung
1984 Los Angeles
Silver: John Hoover
Gold: Tom Goodwin
Bronze: Jeff Weaver
TRACK AND FIELD
Gold: Les Laign, Jamaica (4×400 relay)
Bronze: Ruth Lawanson
Silver: Stephen Abas (55kg/121lb freestyle)