NC State Basketball

David Thompson and the 25 Greatest Players in ACC History

Doug BrodessCorrespondent IJune 21, 2011

David Thompson and the 25 Greatest Players in ACC History

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    Many of the greatest college basketball players of all time have played in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

    It is mind blowing to sort through the array of talent that has come through the ACC since the conference first started in 1953.

    Sixteen ACC players have won the Naismith College Player of the Year award since the honor was first given in 1969.

    The hard part about putting together a list like this is trimming some very deserving players from the running.

    It is also difficult to evaluate these players' college performances without letting their pro careers, their reputations, or their commercial appeals come into play.

    Nonetheless, here are the 25 greatest players in ACC history.

25. Len Chappell, Wake Forest

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    Len Chappell is a player that not everyone knows but had an exceptional career playing for Wake Forest from 1960-62.

    Chappell was named the ACC Player of the Year in both 1961 and 1962 and was a First-Team All-American in 1962.

    He scored 2,165 points and grabbed 1,213 rebounds in his 87-game career.

24. Elton Brand, Duke

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    25 Nov 1998: Elton Brand #42 of the Duke Blue Devils in action during the Carrs Great Alaska Shootout Game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage, Alaska. Duke defeated Notre Dame 111-82. Mandatory Credit: Todd Warshaw  /
    Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

    While Elton Brand played only two years for Duke (1997-99), he left his mark on both Durham and the ACC.

    Brand's career numbers (16.2 PPG 8.9 RPG) do not tell the whole story.

    As a dominant inside force on a highly-talented Duke team as a sophomore, Brand was selected as the 1999 Naismith, Wooden, and Oscar Robertson Award winner as well as being named the 1999 ACC Player of the Year.

23. Antawn Jamison, North Carolina

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    28 Mar 1998:  Forward Antawn Jamison of the North Carolina Tar Heels  in action during a playoff game against the Utah Utes at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.  Utah won the game, 65-59. Mandatory Credit: Todd Warshaw  /Allsport
    Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

    Antawn Jamison was a multi-talented power forward who played for the Tar Heels 1996-98.

    During his three years in Chapel Hill, Jamison averaged 19 points and 9.9 rebounds per game.

    During his sophomore year, he was selected as a Second-Team All-American.

    In his junior year, Jamison was selected as the Naismith, Wooden, Oscar Robertson, and Adolph Rupp trophy winner.

    He was also selected in 1998 as a First-Team All-American and the ACC Player of the Year.

22. Johnny Dawkins, Duke

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    Johnny Dawkins was a high-scoring, four-year-starting point guard for Duke from 1983-86.

    At the conclusion of his years as a Blue Devil, Dawkins became the team's all-time leading scorer (since surpassed by J.J. Redick) after scoring 2,566 points.

    During his junior year, Dawkins was selected as a Second-Team All-American.

    During his senior season, he was not only selected as a First-Team All-American, but also as the 1986 Naismith Player of the Year.

21. Dickie Hemric, Wake Forest

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    While Dickie Hemric may not be a household name, he left his mark on the ACC.

    During his junior and senior seasons as a Wake Forest Demon Deacon, Hemric was the ACC Player of the Year for the first two years of the conference's existence (1954,1955).

    He set a conference record for scoring that stood for over five decades. His record of 2,587 points was broken only in 2006 by J.J. Redick.

    His record of 1,802 career rebounds still stands today, with Tim Duncan (1,570) being the closest challenger.

    Hemric was selected as a Third-Team All-American as a junior and a Second-Team All-American as a senior.

20. Joe Smith, Maryland

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    Joe Smith played two fantastic years for the Maryland Terrapins (1993-95).

    For those two seasons, he averaged 20.2 PPG and 10.7 RPG.

    During his sophomore season, Smith was the 1995 ACC Player of the Year, a First-Team All-American, and the AP and Naismith Player of the Year winner.

19. Larry Miller, North Carolina

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    Larry Miller played for the North Carolina Tar Heels from 1966-68.

    He was named the ACC Player of the Year in his junior and senior seasons.

    Miller was named a Second-Team All-American in 1967 and a First-Team All-American in 1968.

18. Chris Paul, Wake Forest

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    Chris Paul had a short (2003-05) but sensational career at Wake Forest.

    Paul averaged 15 points, 3.9 rebounds and 6.3 assists over his two years in a Demon Deacon uniform.

    In his freshman year, Paul was named ACC Rookie of the Year and National Freshman of the Year.

    In his sophomore season, Paul was selected for the ACC All-Defense team and was a First-Team All-American.

17. Juan Dixon, Maryland

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    1 Apr 2002:  Juan Dixon #3 of Maryland drives past A.J. Moye #2 of Indiana during the men's NCAA National Championship game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia.  DIGITAL IMAGE Mandatory Credit:  Jamie Squire/ESPN/ Getty Images
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Juan Dixon had an outstanding four-year career for the Maryland Terrapins.

    He is Maryland's all-time leading scorer (2,269 points).

    Dixon was a three-time First-Team All-ACC selection as well as the 2002 ACC Player of the Year.

    Dixon led the Terrapins to their first NCAA Championship in 2002, when he was selected as the Final Four Most Outstanding Player.

    Also during 2002, he was selected as a First-Team All-American.

16. Billy Cunningham, North Carolina

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    Billy Cunningham had an excellent career for the UNC Tar Heel.

    During his three-year North Carolina career, Cunningham averaged 24.8 ppg and 15.4 rpg.  

    He was All-ACC three times, a USBWA All-American selection twice and was chosen as the 1965 ACC Player of the Year.

15. Len Bias, Maryland

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    Len Bias had a great college career at Maryland.

    In his four years as a Terrapin, Bias averaged 16.4 PPG and 5.7 RPG.

    Bias' senior season was one to remember. He scored 23.2 PPG, grabbed 7 RPG, and was selected as a 1986 First-Team All-American.

14. Jay Williams, Duke

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    17 Feb 2002:  Jason Williams of Duke dribbles the ball during the game against Maryland at Cole Field House in College Park, Maryland . The Maryland Terrapins beat the Duke Blue Devils 87-73. DIGITAL IMAGE.Mandatory Credit: Craig Jones/Getty Images
    Craig Jones/Getty Images

    Jay Williams had an exceptional three-year career at Duke from 1999-2002.

    As a freshman, Williams was named the ACC Rookie of the Year and the Sporting News National Freshman of the Year.

    During his sophomore and junior years, Williams was selected as a First-Team All-American, and in 2002 he was selected as the Naismith, Wooden, and Oscar Robertson Player of the Year Award winner.

    Williams led the Blue Devils to the 2001 NCAA Championship.

13. James Worthy, North Carolina

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    James Worthy had an excellent three-year career at North Carolina.

    Because Worthy played alongside such great teammates as Michael Jordan and Sam Perkins, his career numbers were good but not eye-popping.

    Worthy scored 14.5 PPG and grabbed 7.4 RPG.

    He was selected as a 1982 First-Team All-American, the 1982 National Player of the Year, and the 1982 Final Four Most Outstanding Player.

    Worthy helped lead the Tar Heels to the 1982 NCAA Championship.

12. Shane Battier, Duke

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    Shane Battier had a superb four-year career at Duke (1997-2001).

    While Battier averaged a respectable 13.6 PPG and 6.1 RPG, he was named the NABC National Defensive Player of the Year three times.

    Battier helped lead the Blue Devils to become the 2001 NCAA Champions.

    During his senior season, Battier was named the 2001 NCAA AP Player of the Year, the Wooden and Naismith Award winner, and was selected as the 2001 Final Four Most Outstanding Player.

11. Lennie Rosenbluth, North Carolina

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    Lennie Rosenbluth may be one of the least-known outstanding players in North Carolina history, but his resume is impeccable.

    He was a Third-Team All-American as a sophomore, averaging over 25 points and 11 rebounds per game.

    In his junior year, Rosenbluth scored 26.7 PPG and was named to both first and second All-American teams.

    In his final season with the Tar Heels, Rosenbluth led UNC to the 1957 National Championship over Kansas.

    In 1957, he was a consensus First-Team All-American, the ACC Player of the Year, and the Helms Hall of Fame Collegiate Player of the Year, beating out Wilt Chamberlain.  

    If you beat out Wilt, that's gotta count for something, right?

10. Grant Hill, Duke

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    Grant Hill had a fantastic four-year career at Duke (1990-94).

    Hill averaged 14.9 PPG, 6 RPG and 3.6 APG.

    He was selected as the National Defensive Player of the Year in 1993 and the ACC Player of the Year in 1994.

    He was chosen as a 1993 Third-Team All-American and a 1994 First-Team All-American.

    Hill helped lead the Blue Devils to back-to-back National Championships in 1991 and 1992.

9. Phil Ford, North Carolina

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    Phil Ford was one of the best point guards in ACC history.

    Back in the day, Ford was known for his incredible ability to break opponents down off the dribble.

    Ford averaged 18.6 PPG, scoring 2,290 total points, which made him the No. 1 scorer (now No. 2, to Tyler Hansbrough) in Tar Heel history.

    He was the first player in ACC history to score at least 2,000 pts and hand out more than 600 assists.

    Ford was a Second-Team All-American as a sophomore, and a First-Team All-American as a junior and senior.

    He was named the 1978 Wooden (Player of the Year) Award winner. 

8. J.J. Redick, Duke

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    ATLANTA - MARCH 23:  J.J. Redick #4 of the Duke Blue Devils dribbles against Garrett Temple #14 of the LSU Tigers during third round game of the 2006 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament Regional at the Georgia Dome on March 23, 2006 in Atlanta, Ge
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    J.J. Redick was one of the most prolific scorers and best pure shooters in ACC history.

    He set the conference and school records for most career points. (His ACC mark has now been surpassed by Tyler Hansbrough.)

    As a junior, Redick was the 2005 ACC Player of the Year and the Adolph Rupp National Player of the Year Award winner.

    As a senior, Redick was again named as the ACC Player of the Year and was also selected as the Naismith, Wooden, Robertson, and Rupp Award winner.

    Redick is the ACC Tournament all-time leading scorer with 225 points.

7. Danny Ferry, Duke

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    Danny Ferry had a fantastic four-year career at Duke.

    Ferry was named as the ACC Player of the Year and a consensus First-Team All-American in consecutive years (1988, 1989).

    He helped Duke make it to the Final Four in three of his four years as a Blue Devil.

    During his senior season, Ferry was named the Naismith and Oscar Robertson National Player of the Year Award winner.

6. Ralph Sampson, Virginia

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    College Basketball had never seen a player like Ralph Sampson.

    At 7'4" Sampson brought a unique blend of size and skill.

    Sampson averaged 16.9 PPG and 11.4 RPG over his four years at Virginia.

    Sampson is one of two players to have won the ACC Player of the Year Award three times.

    Sampson won the Naismith, Rupp, and Oscar Robertson College Player of the Year awards three times.

    In spite of his individual awards, Sampson was highly and heavily criticized for never winning an NCAA National Championship.

5. Michael Jordan, North Carolina

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    Back in the day, the joke was that the only person that could hold Michael Jordan under 20 points while he was in a Tar Heel uniform was Dean Smith....his coach.

    Jordan had an sensational run at North Carolina.

    He was named the ACC Freshman of the Year and was a consensus selection to the NCAA All-American first team in both his sophomore (1983) and junior (1984) seasons.

    He helped lead the Tar Heels to win the 1982 NCAA National Championship by hitting the game winning shot as a freshman.

    In his final season in Chapel Hill, Jordan was named the 2004 ACC Player of the Year and the Naismith, Wooden, Rupp Award, and Oscar Robertson Trophy winner

4. Christian Laettner, Duke

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    Christian Laettner accomplished some things that few other players have done before or since.

    Laettner was one of four players ever to be on the floor in four separate Final Fours.

    He owns the NCAA Tournament records for most career free throws made and attempted (142 out of 167), games played 23 (out of a possible 24), and points scored (407).

    Laettner helped lead the Blue Devils to back-to-back National Championships in 1991 and 1992.

    He was the 1991 Final Four Most Outstanding Player and the 1992 AP Player of the Year, Wooden Award, and Naismith College Player of the Year Award winner.

3. Tim Duncan, Wake Forest

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    Tim Duncan made his mark on the ACC and college basketball in his four years in Winston-Salem.

    Duncan averaged 16.5 PPG and 12.3 RPG during his four years as a Demon Deacon.

    In his senior year, he led the conference in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage, and blocked shots. He is the only player in ACC history to pull this off.

    Also, he led the nation in blocked shots his senior year. He left college as the ACC all-time shot block leader, second in NCAA history.

    Duncan was selected as the NABC National Defensive Player of the Year three times.

    He was ACC Player of the Year and a First-Team All-American two years in a row (1996 and 1997).

2. Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina

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    DETROIT - APRIL 06:  Tyler Hansbrough #50 of the North Carolina Tar Heels goes up for a shot over Goran Suton #14 of the Michigan State Spartans in the first half during the 2009 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship game at Ford Field on
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Tyler Hansbrough was one of the most prolific players in ACC history.

    He was named the 2006 ACC Freshman of the Year, was selected for the ACC All-Conference Team all four years that he played at UNC, and was named the 2008 ACC Player of the Year during his junior season.

    He is the conference's all-time leading scorer, having scored a total of 2,872 points.

    He holds the NCAA record for most free throws made (982) in a college career.

    He is only player in ACC history to lead his team all four years in both scoring and rebounds.

    Hansbrough was named as a Third-Team All-American as a freshman, a Second-Team All-American as a sophomore, and First-Team All-American in both his junior and senior seasons.

    He was selected as the Wooden, Naismith, and AP Player of the Year Award winner in 2008.

    Hansbrough finished off his unparalleled career by leading the Tar Heels to the 2009 NCAA Championship.

1. David Thompson, North Carolina State

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    David Thompson was the best player in ACC history—just ask Michael Jordan.

    In his 86 games for North Carolina State, Thompson scored 2,309 points (26.8 PPG).

    He still holds the Wolfpack records for points scored in a single season (838 in 1974–75) and points scored in a single game (57 in 1974).

    Thompson was a three-time consensus First-Team All-American selection, a three-time unanimous First-Team All-ACC member, and a three-time ACC Player of the Year winner.

    Thompson led Norm Sloan's Wolfpack to an undefeated season (27-0) in 1973.

    He followed that up by propelling NC State to an NCAA Championship in 1974. For his outstanding performance, he was selected as the 1974 Final Four Most Outstanding Player.

    Michael Jordan was so inspired by Thompson's game when he was growing up that MJ asked Thompson to introduce him when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

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