North Carolina Basketball: 12 Best Tar Heels During Dean Smith's Reign

Drew LaskeyCorrespondent IAugust 17, 2011

North Carolina Basketball: 12 Best Tar Heels During Dean Smith's Reign

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    Dean Smith spent 36 years taking North Carolina basketball from "widely recognized" to national powerhouse.  Although UNC had its fair share of success before Smith assumed the head coaching role, nothing put the Tar Heels on the college basketball map quite like Smith.

    In 1961, then head coach Frank McGuire asked Smith to take over the coaching responsibilities after McGuire was forced to resign amid recruiting scandals.  Smith had spent three years on the sidelines with McGuire as his assistant, but people around the university were all-but-optimistic about 30-year-old Smith taking the reigns.  

    Little did Tar Heel faithful know that they were leaving their program in the hands of a coach who would become one of the most successful, respected and life-changing coaches to ever grace the college basketball landscape.  

    To Smith, college basketball was much deeper than a game.  It was an opportunity to teach young men how to better themselves on and off the court—an opportunity Smith took very seriously.  He showed no favoritism, he held his players accountable, and he emphasized how much more important class and study time were than playing time.  Simply put, parents of recruits knew what they were getting with Coach Smith, which is why Smith was able to bring in some of the best talent the country had to offer year in and year out.

    During his tenure, the then highest-scoring UNC player ever, four National Players of the Year, a player who would go down as the greatest one ever, along with a few other special players in particular, of whom made college basketball's All-America list 23 times between the 12 of them, would pass through Chapel Hill and learn the Carolina Way.

    This is the list of those 12 players—the most prolific products of Dean Smith's system.

12. Rasheed Wallace/Kenny "The Jet" Smith

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    I know, I know, putting both of those guys on here isn't exactly fair.  But it's my article so I let it slide.  

    Rasheed Wallace really blossomed from his freshman year to his sophomore year, increasing his points per game average by almost double.  From such rapid improvement, Wallace decided to enter the NBA Draft after only two years in Chapel Hill.  But he definitely left his mark at UNC—and all around the ACC—even in that short time.

    UNC career averages:

    13 PPG, 7.4 RPG

    (Freshman year: 9.5 PPG, 6.6 RPG)

    (Sophomore year: 16.6 PPG, 8.2 RPG) 


    Collegiate Awards/Achievements:

    1995 Second Team All-American

    1995 First Team All-ACC

    Holder of highest all-time ACC field goal percentage at .635 percent

    Career total points: 899

    Career total rebounds: 511 

    ____________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Kenny "The Jet" Smith stuck around at UNC for all four years of his eligibility during the 83-87 seasons.  He posted career averages of 13 points and six assists per game.  His senior season is when "The Jet" really took off, though (pun intended), increasing his points per game total by four from his junior year all while maintaining his six assists per game average.

    With Smith at the helm, UNC went 105-32 in those four seasons.

    Collegiate Awards/Achievements:

    1987 Basketball Times' National Player of the Year

    1987 First Team All-American

    1987 First Team All-ACC

    1985 Second Team All-ACC

    1986 Second Team All-ACC

    Scored career-high 41 points in 1987 in comeback win against Clemson

    Patterson Medal recipient (UNC's highest athletic honor awarded to the most outstanding senior athlete)

    Career field goal percentage: .512

    Career three-point percentage: .408

    Career point total:1,636

    Career assist total: 768 

11. Eric Montross

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    Montross was just a beast, to put it simply.  From his imposing presence in the post to his relentless efforts on the boards, Montross was a guy you wanted on your side of the battle.

    Montross spent four years at UNC and really started to stand out nationally during his junior and senior seasons.  A productive player, Montross shot 59 percent from the field for his career.

    Montross' most memorable moment at UNC came from an installment of college basketball's greatest rivalry: Duke-Carolina.  No. 9-ranked North Carolina took on the top-seeded Duke in February of '92 where the lasting image was of Montross, face bloodied, sinking two clutch free throws to help give UNC their eventual 75-73 victory over their archrival.

    UNC career averages:

    11.7 PPG, 6.8 RPG

    (Junior year: 15.8 PPG, 7.6 RPG)

    (Senior year: 13.6 PPG, 8.1 RPG)

    Collegiate Awards/Achievements:

    Member of the 1994 John Wooden All-America team

    1993 Second Team All-American

    1994 Second Team All-American

    1993 First Team All-ACC

    1994 Second Team All-ACC

    Member of 1993 NCAA championship team

    Career point total: 1,627

    Career rebound total: 941 

10. Mitch Kupchak

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    Before he was the general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers, Mitch Kupchak was making a name for himself on the basketball court.  He is the only player on this list to average a double-double for not just one season, but two.  

    Kupchak was a ferocious competitor who approached the game with a Tyler Hansbrough-esque mentality.  He even overcame back surgery that he underwent in between his junior and senior season to finish his career off strongly.  

    Before and after his surgery, Kupchak was an absolute force down low.  He went on to win three NBA championships, one with the Washington Bullets in '78 and two with the Los Angeles Lakers in '82 and '85.  

    Unfortunately, his career professionally was marred by injuries and slowly came to an end after he tore his ACL in his left knee.  He retired after only 10 NBA seasons.

    UNC career averages:

    13.5 PPG, 8.5 RPG

    (Junior year: 18.5 PPG, 10.8 RPG)

    (Senior year: 17.6 PPG, 11.3 RPG)

    Collegiate Awards/Achievements:

    1976 ACC Player of the Year

    1976 Second Team All-American

    1977 Second Team All-American

    1975 First Team All-ACC

    1976 First Team All-ACC

    Career field goal percentage: .586

    Career point total: 1,611

    Career rebound total: 1,006 

9. Brad Daugherty

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    Brad Daugherty did Tar Heel Faithful a huge favor by not declaring early for the NBA draft.  Based on his talent—and numbers—he could have very easily left school after his junior season.  But he didn't.  

    He came into UNC as a 16-year-old freshman and stayed all four years.  In that time, Daugherty helped lead UNC to a 111-26 overall record—including a 14-0 mark in the ACC in 1984—and would go on to have one of the highest scoring averages and field goal percentages in UNC history. 


    UNC career averages:

    14.2 PPG, 7.4 RPG

    (Junior year: 17.3 PPG, 9.7 RPG)

    (Senior year: 20.2 PPG, 9.0 RPG)

    Collegiate Awards/Achievements:

    1986 First Team All-American

    1986 First Team All-ACC

    1985 First Team All-ACC

    Patterson Medal recipient

    Career field goal percentage: .620

    Career point total: 1,912

    Career rebound total: 1,003 

8. Jerry Stackhouse

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    Jerry Stackhouse was one of the most electrifying players to ever pass through Chapel Hill.  He also served as a nice prequel to Vince Carter, who would later become Stackhouse's successor as the ultimate high-flying Tar Heel.  

    Stackhouse had a number of highlight reel dunks at UNC, but he was also a go-to guy UNC could rely on and his energy was infectious.  Stackhouse was the kind of player who challenged other players to compete with the same tenacity and passion that he did.  He was one of those guys every coach wanted playing for him—and one of those guys every coach hated playing against.

    In only two seasons, Stackhouse sent shock waves around the ACC that can still be felt today, especially by Duke fans.  (Revert to 1:30 of highlight reel for verification.  I don't know what was better, the dunk or the swag-struttin' afterward.)

    UNC career averages 

    15.7 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 2.3 APG

    (Sophomore year: 19.2 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 2.7 APG)

    Collegiate Awards/Achievements:

    1995 Sports Illustrated's National College Player of the Year

    1995 First Team All-American

    1994 ACC Tournament MVP

    1995 First Team All-ACC

    Career field goal percentage: .496

    Career point total: 1,080

    Career rebound total: 456

    Career assist total: 162 

7. J.R. Reid

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    J.R. Reid was the most highly-touted player coming out of high school when he came to play for Dean Smith.  

    His hype didn't disappoint either, as he produced significant minutes—averaging roughly 29 per game as a freshman—and numbers right away. His first two seasons at Carolina were as good as anyone could have asked for.

    Reid spent three years at Carolina from 1986 to 1989 where UNC compiled an 88-19 record in that time.  He was one of the most consistent and productive bigs UNC—and the ACC—has ever seen. 


    UNC career averages:

    16.2 PPG, 7.6 RPG

    (Freshman year: 14.7 PPG, 7.4 RPG)

    (Sophomore year: 18 PPG, 8.9 RPG)

    Collegiate Awards/Achievements:

    1987 ACC Freshman of the Year

    1988 First Team All-American

    1989 ACC Tournament MVP

    1988 First Team All-ACC

    1987 Second Team All-ACC

    Career field goal percentage: .601

    Career point total: 1,552

    Career rebound total: 731 

6. Mike O'Koren

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    Mike O'Koren played at UNC from 1976-1980 and is one of only two players on this list who won All-American honors three times.  He also came in and contributed as a freshman right away.

    O'Koren was the quintessential "does everything well" player, and he made whatever sacrifices—and effort—needed for the betterment of the team.  He's still the only Carolina player with at least 1,500 points, 800 rebounds and 300 assists. He also recorded 183 steals during his time as a Tar Heel.

    O'Koren was no stranger to the spotlight, either. He grabbed a career-high 20 rebounds, scored 17 points, dished out seven assists and had four steals in a 74-68 homecourt win over Duke in 1979, where he also held Gene Banks scoreless in the second half of that game. He finished with 22 points and five assists in a double overtime win over Virginia. And in the ACC Tournament finals against Duke he had 18 points and 11 rebounds, scoring Carolina's final 10 points for a 71-63 victory.

    UNC career averages:

    15.1 PPG, 7.0 RPG

    Collegiate Awards/Achievements:

    1978 First Team All-American

    1979 First Team All-American

    1980 First Team All-American

    1978 Fist Team All-ACC

    1980 First Team All-ACC

    1979 Second Team All-ACC

    Career field goal percentage: .572

    Career point total: 1,765

    Career rebound total: 815 

5. Sam Perkins

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    Sam "Big Smooth" Perkins was similar to J.R. Reid and Mike O'Koren in that he made an impact the moment he set foot in Chapel Hill.  From the get-go, Dean Smith knew he had a special player.  

    Perkins was a 6 foot 9 forward who could beat you in the post or on the wing.  His lengthiness made him an excellent defender, too.  He had a laid back aura about him, but was no doubt an assassin.  Perkins is in the elite class of UNC basketball alumni who scored over 2,000 points for their career.

    His awards speak for themselves. 

    UNC career averages:

    (Freshman year: 14.9 PPG, 7.8 RPG)

    (Junior year: 16.9 PPG, 9.4 RPG)

    (Senior year: 17.6 PPG, 9.6 RPG) 

    Collegiate Awards/Achievements:

    UNC's second all-time leading rebounder (Tyler Hansbrough 1,219)

    UNC's fifth all-time leading scorer

    1981 ACC Freshman of the Year

    1984 First Team All-American

    1983 First Team All-American

    1982 Second Team All-American

    1981 ACC Tournament MVP

    Member of 1982 championship team

    1982 First Team All-ACC

    1983 First Team All-ACC

    1984 First Team All-ACC

    Career field goal percentage: .576

    Career point total: 2,145

    Career rebound total: 1,167

4. Antawn Jamison

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    Antawn Jamison is one of the most decorated and versatile players in UNC history.  Growing up in Charlotte, North Carolina, Jamison felt right at home as soon as he came to Chapel Hill—and he couldn't have made it more obvious.

    Throughout his time at UNC, Jamison climbed the ranks of college basketball's most unstoppable forces, peaking in his junior year as he posted a career-best 22.2 PPG and 10.5 RPG.  

    Jamison is only the second player in ACC history to earn first-team All-ACC honors as a freshman, sophomore and junior (Tyler Hansbrough, who won it all four years).  Jamison rose to the occasion in college basketball's biggest rivalry, too, averaging 30.3 points and 12.0 rebounds in three career home victories against Duke. In the 1998 ACC Tournament final against Duke, Jamison overcame a leg muscle injury to score 22 points and pull down 18 rebounds in a UNC win.

    Jamison was simply everything that UNC basketball is about.

    UNC career averages:

    19 PPG, 9.9 RPG

    (Freshman year: 15.1 PPG, 9.7 RPG, led ACC in field goal percentage at 62 percent)

    (Sophomore year: 19.1 PPG, 9.4 RPG)

    Collegiate Awards/Achievements:

    Unanimous 1998 National Player of the Year

    1998 ACC Player of the Year

    1998 First Team All-American

    1997 Second Team All-American

    1998 ACC Tournament MVP

    1996 First Team All-ACC

    1997 First Team All-ACC

    1998 First Team All-ACC

    Career field goal percentage: .577

    Career point total:  1,974

    Career rebound total: 1,027

    *Random fact: The reason Antawn's name is pronounced "Antwan" is because his name was originally supposed to be "Antwan," but due to a misprint on his birth certificate, it read "Antawn."  His family decided to keep the spelling, as they felt it was more distinctive, but kept the annunciation of "Antwan."  

3. Michael Jordan

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    Say, what?  There's a list of the top something basketball-related and Michael Jordan isn't No. 1?  Well, there are only a few such lists out there, and this just happens to be one of them.

    It's hard to put into words how magnificent Jordan's career was at UNC.  From his game-winning shot as a freshman against Georgetown to deliver Dean Smith his first NCAA championship, to becoming one of the most talented, driven UNC players in the program's history, Michael Jordan is simply synonymous with Carolina basketball.

    Flashes of Jordan's future as the greatest closer ever were revealed in some of his greatest performances as a Tar Heel.  Besides the aforementioned NCAA title game, he led a momentous comeback against Virginia in 1983, sealing the game with a last-minute steal and dunk. And in that same season, he sent a game versus Tulane into overtime after he stole the ball and sank a long jumper at the end of regulation as UNC went on to win in triple overtime.

    Every greatest player of his respective sport has to get his start somewhere.  And Michael Jordan's was at UNC.  If you were to try and argue that Jordan was in actuality the greatest—or second greatest—player in Carolina history, well, you wouldn't need to do much convincing.

    UNC career averages:

    17.7 PPG, 5 RPG

    (Sophomore year: 20 PPG, 5.5 RPG)

    (Junior year: 19.6 PPG, 5.3 RPG)

    Collegiate Awards/Achievements:

    1984 National Player of the Year

    1984 ACC Player of the Year

    1982 Freshman of the Year

    1983 First Team All-American

    1984 First Team All-American

    1984 ACC Athlete of the Year

    1983 First Team All-ACC

    1984 First Team All-ACC

    Career field goal percentage: .540

    Career point total: 1,788

    Career rebound total: 509

    Career assist total: 181

2. James Worthy

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    "Big Game" James Worthy is one of the greatest winners in UNC history.  Perhaps it was losing his senior state championship game in high school, or losing in the 1981 NCAA Final, that drove him to such bountiful success down the road.  

    After the '81 loss to Indiana, Worthy went on to become the Most Outstanding Player in the 1982 Final Four, the NCAA's 1982 National Player of the Year, and he won three NBA championships in '85, '87 and '88 with the Los Angeles Lakers, capturing the NBA Finals MVP in '88.

    Worthy is regarded as one of most versatile, relentless competitors to ever wear the North Carolina uniform.  He lead by example, and among the company of Michael Jordan and Sam Perkins, it was Worthy who was the go-to guy—the guy those two looked to for guidance.

    UNC career averages:

    14.5 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 2.5 APG

    Collegiate Awards/Achievements:

    1982 Co-National Player of the Year (Ralph Sampson)

    1982 Final Four Most Outstanding Player

    1982 ACC Athlete of the Year

    1982 First Team All-American

    1982 ACC Tournament MVP

    1982 First Team All-ACC

    1981 Second Team All-ACC

    Career field goal percentage: .541

    Career point total: 1,219

    Career rebound total: 620 

1. Phil Ford

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    Phil Jackson Ford Jr. was the all-time UNC leading scorer until Dec. 18, 2008, when Tyler Hansbrough did the honor of surpassing his 2,290 career-point mark.  Ford played four years at Carolina, was a three-time All-American, National Player of the Year, two-time ACC Athlete of the Year and an ACC tournament MVP.  What more could you want from a 6'2" point guard?

    A four-year starter, Ford lead Carolina to three straight first-place ACC regular-season finishes as well as two ACC Tournament titles in 1975 and 1977 and the NCAA championship game in 1977, although they fell short to Marquette 67-59.  

    While Ford was at UNC, they went 99-24.

    But before Ford got to Carolina, the program had experienced only moderate success in its most recent years, not exactly what one would expect from such a deep-rooted tradition. 

    Ford changed that.  

    Ford put UNC "back on the map" in the ACC and across the country, which sparked the interest of more prospective recruits and helped pave the way to the successful years that lay ahead.  Ford isn't only considered one of UNC's greatest players of all-time, but also one of the best guards to ever play collegiately.  Ford pioneered the Four Corners offense that Dean Smith created and executed it in perfect unison to how Smith envisioned.  

    Similar to the other top players on this list, Ford was no stranger to big performances on the biggest stages.  He scored a career-high 34 points against Duke in his last regular season game in Carmichael Auditorium, elevating UNC to the 1978 ACC regular-season title.

    Ford attended the University of North Carolina to learn the game of basketball under the steady hand that was Dean Smith.  And Smith took that opportunity to teach Ford far more than just a game.  Smith placed the emphasis on the "student" part of "student-athlete."  He taught him how to win, and how better himself and those others around him.  In short, Dean Smith taught Phil Ford—and all the players on this list—a way of life.  More specifically, The Carolina Way of life.

    UNC career averages:

    18.6 PPG, 6.1 APG

    (Senior year: 20.8 PPG, 2.1 RPG)

    Collegiate Awards/Achievements:

    1978 National Player of the Year

    1978 ACC Player of the Year

    1977 ACC Athlete of the Year

    1978 ACC Athlete of the Year

    1977 First Team All-American

    1978 First Team All-American

    1976 Second Team All-American

    1975 ACC Tournament MVP

    1976 First Team All-ACC

    1977 First Team All-ACC

    1978 First Team All-ACC

    Career field goal percentage: .527 

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