North Carolina Basketball: Picking the Tar Heels' Team of the Decade
The University of North Carolina has produced some of the best basketball players in the history of the game.
Names like Michael Jordan, Bob McAdoo, Rasheed Wallace and Vince Carter come to mind when discussing famous Tar Heels.
In more recent times, the university has also had great success. In the 2000s, UNC made four Final Four appearances, coming away victorious in both 2005 and 2009.
As for outstanding individuals during the decade, UNC produced nine All-Americans. Clearly, the school at Chapel Hill had great teams and players during the 2000s.
Who, though, played well enough to make the North Carolina Team of the Decade?
Keep reading to find out!
Thanks to Wikipedia and Basketball-Reference for some key information used in this article!
Point Guard: Ty Lawson (2006-2009)
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Ty Lawson made a huge impact at North Carolina right away as a freshman, something that is rare for a point guard at such a prestigious school. During his freshman season, he led the Tar Heels with 5.6 assists per game. His pass-first nature would be a defining characteristic of his entire UNC career.
Along with his passing ability, Lawson was a pest on the defensive end of the floor, averaging at least 1.5 steals in each of his three years as a Tar Heel. In the 2009 NCAA championship game, he finished with eight steals against the Michigan State Spartans, epitomizing his play on defense.
As his career progressed, Lawson became more and more comfortable scoring the rock. A stat that truly amazes me is his 51.7 percent career field goal shooting mark, which is mind-boggling considering his height (5'11"). He also learned how to shoot the three-ball effectively, burying 47.2 percent of his attempts in his junior season.
All of these factors make Lawson the point guard of the decade for UNC.
Career Stats: 13.1 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 5.8 APG, 1.8 SPG, 51.7% Field Goal Shooting, 40.3% Three-Point Shooting
Awards and Accolades: NCAA Champion (2009), ACC Player of the Year (2009), NCAA All-American Second Team (2009), Bob Cousy Award (2009), All-ACC First Team (2009), All-ACC Second Team (2008)
Shooting Guard: Rashad McCants (2002-2005)
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Rashad McCants was one of the best scorers that UNC has ever seen. He led the Tar Heels in scoring during his first two years in light blue and converted at a very high rate. He could score by driving, shooting from deep and in a variety of other ways.
McCants made other notable contributions to North Carolina, as he was a solid rebounder, passer and defender throughout his career. He stood at 6'4" but had a stunning 6'11" wingspan, making him an ideal shooting guard at the college level.
Basketball beyond UNC has proven to be difficult for McCants, who has recently played in China and the NBA D-League. The only question mark on his legacy at North Carolina is his rather memorable quote in which he compared the school to a prison.
If you can look past those two factoids, you can see that McCants was an outstanding shooting guard for North Carolina.
Career Stats: 17.6 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.5 SPG, 48.6% Field Goal Shooting, 41.5% Three-Point Shooting
Awards and Accolades: NCAA Champion (2005), NCAA All-American Third Team (2004, 2005), All-ACC First Team (2004), All-ACC Second Team (2005)
Small Forward: Jawad Williams (2001-2005)
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Jawad Williams was an incredibly consistent player for UNC during his four-year career. His great career culminated in an NCAA championship in 2005.
Although Williams was never a "star player" and didn't rake in tons of individual awards, he was crucial to North Carolina's success in the first half of the 2000s. During his first two seasons, the Tar Heels were less than spectacular, dropping games to teams like Hampton, Davidson (before Stephen Curry came along), Charleston, Ohio (the Bobcats, not Buckeyes) and Iona.
Williams stuck with the program during the tough times and transformed UNC back into a winning team. Combine "sticktoitiveness" and a full four-year career, and you will see that he was the best small forward for the Tar Heels during the 2000s.
Career Stats: 12.7 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.5 APG, 48.7% Field Goal Shooting
Awards and Accolades: NCAA Champion (2005), All-ACC Third Team (2005)
Power Forward: Tyler Hansbrough (2005-2009)
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What Tyler Hansbrough did at North Carolina was unheard of. The big forward from Poplar Bluff, Missouri, was a four-time All-American and All-ACC First Team performer during his record-breaking UNC career.
Hansbrough holds countless school and ACC records and unofficially had the most haters out of any other player during the decade not named J.J. Redick.
Despite the haters, he kept the Tar Heels extremely relevant throughout his entire career and finally brought the NCAA title back to Chapel Hill as a senior.
Is Hansbrough UNC's best power forward of the decade? Certainly. Perhaps, he is even the best player in UNC's glorious history.
Career Stats: 20.2 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 53.6% Field Goal Shooting
Awards and Accolades (Don't hold your breath!): NCAA Champion (2009), AP Player of the Year (2008), Naismith Player of the Year (2008), John R. Wooden Award (2008), NCAA All-American First Team (2008, 2009), NCAA All-American Second Team (2007), NCAA All-American Third Team (2006), ACC Player of the Year (2008), All-ACC First Team (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009), ACC Rookie of the Year (2006)
Center: Sean May (2002-2005)
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Sean May is probably the most remembered three-year player of the last decade for North Carolina. He was a two-time All-American, two-time All-ACC performer, and of course, an NCAA champion.
May was incredibly dominant, especially as a junior. During his junior season, he was the undisputed leader of an immensely talented Tar Heels team and averaged a double-double throughout the season en route to a 33-4 finish.
In the national championship game, May scored 26 points and grabbed 10 boards, solidifying his legacy as a Tar Heel. Seeing that he had nothing left to accomplish at Chapel Hill, he left for the NBA, certainly on good terms with the UNC community.
Career Stats: 15.8 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 1.3 SPG, 51.3% Field Goal Shooting
Awards and Accolades: NCAA Champion (2005), NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player (2005), NCAA All-American Second Team (2005), All-ACC First Team (2005), All-ACC Second Team (2004)
Raymond Felton (2002-2005)
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Raymond Felton was another member of the 2005 championship team for UNC. He had a great junior season, along with two spectacular underclassmen seasons. He averaged nearly seven assists per game throughout his three-year career, showing that he was truly one of the best passers that North Carolina has seen.
Felton came up especially huge during the end of the 2005 championship game against Illinois, playing great defense and hitting some clutch free throws. Without him, it is safe to say that the Tar Heels would've had more difficulty being as successful as they were.
For this, Felton finds himself on roster of the UNC Team of the Decade.
Career Stats: 12.5 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 6.9 APG, 1.9 SPG
Awards and Accolades: NCAA Champion (2005), NCAA All-American Third Team (2005), Bob Cousy Award (2005), All-ACC First Team (2005), All-ACC Third Team (2003, 2004)
Joseph Forte (1999-2000)
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Joseph Forte started his UNC career out at the end of the 1990s, and by the time the 2000s rolled around, he had put together quite an impressive résumé. He was an elite scorer in the ACC right away and only needed to spend two years at Chapel Hill before going on to a long and successful NBA career.
Minus the long and successful NBA career, of course. If you don't know what happened to Forte, I strongly suggest you do some Google and Wikipedia web surfing, because I can't properly tell you how far he fell off the map.
Regardless, he will be remembered for making an immediate impact for the Tar Heels in the beginning of the decade.
Career Stats: 18.7 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.8 SPG
Awards and Accolades: NCAA All-American First Team (2001), ACC Player of the Year (2001), All-ACC First Team (2001), All-ACC Second Team (2000), ACC Rookie of the Year (2000)
Wayne Ellington (2006-2009)
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North Carolina has had plenty of elite scoring guards, and Wayne Ellington falls in this category. He was a great scorer for all three years of his UNC career and left the school a winner in 2009. He was best known for his three-point shooting at Chapel Hill.
Ellington's three-point shooting ability came to full fruition in his final collegiate game; he connected on seven threes against the Michigan State Spartans en route to Final Four Most Outstanding Player honors.
Had Ellington stayed for his senior year, he might've climbed up higher in UNC's record books, but he left the Tar Heels with no regrets, ending his career in the best way possible.
Career Stats: 14.7 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.0 SPG, 39.7% Three-Point Shooting
Awards and Accolades: NCAA Champion (2009), Final Four Most Outstanding Player (2009), All-ACC Second Team (2008)
Danny Green (2005-2009)
Danny Green was truly one of the most unique players that North Carolina and the ACC have ever seen. He was capable of leading any game in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and blocks. He is amongst UNC's historic leaders in scoring, blocks, three-pointers made and free-throw percentage.
If Green wasn't diverse enough for you, you don't know what diversity is.
Green was fun, widely known for his dancing traditions before (and even during) some home games. More than this, his great play during his memorable four-year career will be remembered by Tar Heels fans for years to come.
Career Stats: 9.4 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.1 BPG, 1.1 SPG, 84.5% Free Throw Shooting
Awards and Accolades: NCAA Champion (2009), All-ACC Third Team (2009)
David Noel (2002-2006)
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David Noel was a contributing member to the 2005 UNC championship team, but his best season came the following year in 2006. His stats were never mind-boggling, but he came along nicely as a senior, earning All-ACC Second Team honors.
In Noel's senior year, the Tar Heels won 23 games and made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament. That was an impressive feat considering the team lost so many of its core members from the 2005 championship squad.
Noel was never about individual glory, but he got some as a senior. He left UNC as a winner and got one year to be a great player statistically.
Career Stats: 6.9 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.1 SPG, 53.2% Field Goal Shooting
Awards and Accolades: NCAA Champion (2005), All-ACC Second Team (2006)
Brandan Wright (2006-2007)
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In his lone year at UNC, Brandan Wright made a huge impact. He was one of the most decorated high school basketball players of all time, winning Tennessee's Mr. Basketball title three times at Brentwood Academy.
At North Carolina, Wright was a man amongst boys right away, scoring in double figures in his first 18 games as a Tar Heel. He continued his high school ways at Chapel Hill and was successful enough to be a lottery pick in the NBA draft after just one year at college.
Obviously, Wright won't have some of the lasting impacts on UNC as some other players on this list will, but he felt that he was NBA-ready after just one season. Unfortunately, he was wrong.
Career Stats: 14.7 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.8 BPG, 1.0 SPG, 64.6% Field Goal Shooting
Awards and Accolades: All-ACC Second Team (2007), ACC Rookie of the Year (2007)
Brendan Haywood (1997-2001)
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Only Brendan Haywood's final two seasons came in the 2000s, but they were too good to be ignored.
Haywood led the Tar Heels to a Final Four appearance in 2000 and had UNC's first triple-double against Miami. He had a combination of winningness and great individual play that made his four-year career at North Carolina have lasting impacts.
Now, you may see Haywood on SportsCenter highlights as a member of the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals, but remember that it all started at Chapel Hill.
Career Stats: 10.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 2.2 BPG, 63.7% Field Goal Shooting
Awards and Accolades: Sporting News All-American Second Team (2001), All-ACC Second Team (2001)