Julianna Prim: By Water, By Land - Leaving Wolfpack Imprint

  • Name: Julianna Prim
  • Age: 23
  • Organization: Starmount HS, NC State

(Photo: Julianna Prim and NBA All-Star Chris Paul. Courtesy: Julianna Prim.)

Author: Patrick Kinas, DNAOfSports.com creator.

The differences between NC State’s Julianna Prim and NBA All-Star Chris Paul are as stark as water and land. But the academic-All American Wolfpack swimmer Prim has spent the last two summers dutifully working at Pauls’ summer basketball camp, rubbing elbows with the former NBA Rookie of the Year and some of the top high school talent in the country. Their unusual bond exists because of their love of basketball, teaching kids and an upbringing just a few miles apart…. and a mother.

Prim, 23, grew up in Yadkinville, NC, a few miles away from Paul’s hometown of Lewisville. The entire western North Carolina region was awed by Paul’s hardwood ability throughout his prep, Wake Forest and NBA career. Prim had met Paul a few times during his career at Wake Forest, but had never talked to him. Prim was such a fan of Paul’s, that on her 18th birthday, the Prim sisters took a trip to New Orleans to see Paul play.

After Paul’s NBA career began by winning the Rookie of the Year award, Paul started giving back to the community. He started the Chris Paul Camp in 2005, and Prim enrolled. On the first day of camp, Prim, came to one telling realization. Of the 300 local campers signed up, she was the only girl.

“It was a typical camp with all of the drills and skill sessions,” Prim said. “But Chris was there the whole duration of the camp and would even participate in the drills. Over the CP3 weekend, he’d have fundraisers, a time to meet the family, a bowling tournament and church services. I had a chance to stay in touch with the family.”

During those times, Prim had met Chris’s mother, and the two established a friendship, which would lead to an opportunity a few years later.

Prim attended the camp for two years, and as the camp continued to grow, Paul was in need of additional help. “His mom (Robin) called me and asked if I could come and run the camp store for him,” Prim said of the job she’s now done for the last two years. “Now, the camp is so popular that people are coming in from Los Angeles to Denmark to go to his camp in Winston-Salem.”

Prim’s closeness with the family has reached deeper into the Paul family, now teaching one of Paul’s children.

“The Paul family always called me ‘The Swimmer’”, Prim said referring to her record-setting prep and collegiate swimming career. “I taught ‘Little Chris’ swimming last summer.”

Certainly there’s pressure to keep ‘Little Chris’ afloat, but it’s pressure that Prim had no problem handling.

Prim is a former valedictorian at Starmount High School, and currently working on her master’s degree in Zoology and Neuroscience at NC State after wrapping up her Wolfpack swimming career last year.

“I’m considering going on to gain my Ph.D.,” Prim said, envisioning a career as a biology professor. “My mom is a teacher, my dad was a college history professor at Gardner Webb, and my grandmother has been a teacher. I realized that I can make a big impact in teaching, and can see myself making a difference.”

Water To Land

Prim learned to swim at age 6. Her dad was her mentor and swimming coach until she walked across the Starmount graduation stage. While a rigorous practice schedule existed, Prim could balance her love of basketball because of her coach’s familial leniency.

“He’s why I could play basketball in high school,” Prim said. “I could work with him on my swimming schedule, which was more individualized, and still get on the court.”

Prim certainly didn’t cut any corners in the pool. She was a three-time state champ in the 100m butterfly and champion in the 50m freestyle. On top of that, Prim was also valedictorian.

After high school, Prim had considered attending NC State, but was instead drawn to Division II Pfeiffer University in Misenheimer, NC.

“I liked the small town, small atmosphere at Pfeiffer,” Prim said. But soon after her first year, Prim yearned for a change and transferred to NC State where Prim joined the Wolfpack swimming team and wrapped up a stellar career this past spring. Prim still holds the school record in the 200 butterfly and was the team MVP her first year at NC State.

But after a college career in the water, Prim still had an unquenched passion for the hardwood, when a fateful moment would intervene and chance her course one last time.

“I had been playing intramural basketball with some girls from the soccer team,” Prim recalled. “That reenergized my love for the game. Then I started going to Carmichael and played pick-up games. One day we played with a couple of older guys on a team. I then found out that one of these guys was Jon Harper.”

Harper, as in Kellie and Jon Harper. The Harpers are the wife-husband duo who led the Wolfpack women’s basketball program for four years.

Soon thereafter, Jon found himself sitting in Kellie’s office and told her he had played with a girl who could help the basketball team.

Prim had practiced with the Pack a few times last season, and was primed to officially join the team this fall. The major obstacle came in later in the spring when Kellie was fired. Prim thought that her college basketball career may have ended before it even had a chance to start.

“I was really scared,” Prim said about the coaching change. “I was fearful of the unknown. Coach Moore didn’t know me. He didn’t know about any conversations I had with Kellie and Jon. My entire future, from grad school to basketball, was totally in the air. All I could do was walk by faith.”

But after Moore became settled in, Prim was given the opportunity to walk on the Wolfpack basketball team and realize yet another dream.

The only remaining hurdle for Prim to overcome is healing a nagging stress fracture in her foot, which has sidelined her over the past six weeks. Once that occurs, Prim will consider her long journey from Pfeiffer to NC State, swimming to basketball, a freestyle success.

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