Carolina’s Greatest Players of the ACC Era: 70-61

The first three installments of this scintillating series can be found here (100-91 + methodology), here (90-81), and here (80-71).

We’ll start this segment with #70.

70. Lee Dedmon: 1969-1971, C, 6’10”, 195, Baltimore, MD

  • Peak season (1971): 12.4 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 2.8 apg, 49.8 FG%, 72.9 FT%, 56.0 TS%
  • Career averages (3 years): 11.4 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 2.0 apg, 48.1 FG%, 67.8 FT%, 52.5 TS%
  • Accolades: one ACC Tournament co-MVP, one All-ACC Tournament team, key reserve on one Final Four team

As a sophomore, Dedmon was the top frontcourt reserve on Carolina ‘s’69 Final Four team (backing up seniors Rusty Clark and Bill Bunting). While Charlie Scott’s 40-point explosion deservedly earns most of the credit for UNC’s victory over Duke in the ’69 ACCT championship game, Dedmon was also sensational. He added 19 points and 11 rebounds in 28 minutes off the bench– Heels other than Scott and Dedmon combined for just 26 points in Carolina’s 85-74 victory. As both a junior and senior, Dedmon led the Heels in rebounding. He added 2.8 assists per game as a senior in ’71– an incredible figure for a center. Dedmon capped off his UNC career by averaging 15.3 points and 7.3 rebounds over 3 games to win co-MVP of the ACC Tournament (despite losing the pivotal jump ball against South Carolina that cost the Heels the title). He then played an instrumental role in leading Carolina to the NIT championship (back when that was still a really big deal in the one-NCAAT-bid-per-conference era).

69. Brandan Wright: 2007, PF, 6’9″, 205, Nashville, TN

  • Peak season: 14.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 64.6 FG%, 56.7 FT%, 63.7 TS%, 2.90 WORP / 35 games
  • Career averages (1 year): 14.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 64.6 FG%, 56.7 FT%, 63.7 TS%, 3.14 Career WORP, 3.10 WORP / 1,000 minutes
  • Accolades: ACC Rookie of the Year, one ACC Tournament MVP, one All-ACC Tournament team, one 2nd-team All-ACC, one regional All-Tournament team

Despite only staying in Chapel Hill for one season, Wright left an imprint on the program. The ’07 ACC Rookie of the Year, Wright also captured the ACC Tournament MVP by scoring 47 points over 3 games while shooting 68.8% from the field. He led the ACC in FG% at 64.6 on his way to a 2nd-team All-ACC selection, doing virtually all of his damage from inside of ten feet (lay-ups, dunks, and a lethal jump hook with either hand). Since Roy Williams has returned to Chapel Hill, no Tar Heel has finished better at the rim (making 84.5% of 181 close attempts) or dunked more frequently (2.98 dunks / 40 minutes) than Wright in ’07. He combined freakish length with a freakish ability to convert near the basket. Wright ended his stay at UNC by earning a spot on the East Regional All-Tournament team, highlighted by a 21-point, 9-rebound effort versus USC in the Sweet 16.

68. Ed Davis: 2009-10, C, 6’10, 220, Richmond, VA

  • Peak season (2010): 13.4 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 2.8 bpg, 57.8 FG%, 65.9 FT%, 60.7 TS%, 3.32 WORP / 35 games
  • Career averages (2 years): 9.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 2.1 bpg, 54.8 FG%, 62.3 FT%, 57.2 TS%, 4.04 Career WORP, 2.98 WORP / 1,000 minutes
  • Accolades: top reserve on a Final Four/national championship team

The following table compares Davis (who played a little over a season-and-a-half at UNC before a broken wrist ended his sophomore year and, ultimately, his Carolina career) to one-and-done studs Marvin Williams (#78 on the list) and Brandan Wright (#69). All numbers are pace-adjusted.

Ed Davis Marvin Wlliams Brandan Wright
MPG 22.3 22.2 26.7
PA Pts / 40 15.8 18.9 20.5
PA Reb / 40 13.1 10.9 8.6
PA Asst / 40 1.2 1.2 1.4
A:TO 0.51 0.46 0.63
PA St+Bl / 40 4.3 2.6 3.8
TS% 57.2 62.7 63.7
Career WORP 4.04 2.20 3.14
WORP / 1,000 Minutes 2.98 2.76 3.10

As seen in the final row, all three of these big men provided fairly comparable value as Tar Heels in terms of WORP / 1,000 minutes. Davis was clearly the worst/least efficient scorer of the bunch, but made up for it with his superior rebounding the shot-blocking skills. By playing at least a partial sophomore season, Davis gets the slight nod over Wright (who made more of  an impact as a freshman). Davis was a key member of the ’09 national championship team, chipping in 11 points and 8 rebounds in only 14 minutes in the final versus Michigan State. As a sophomore, he had 10 double-doubles in his 23 games, and added 8 games with 4+ blocked shots.   

67. King Rice: 1988-91, PG, 6’0″, 188, Binghampton, NY

  • Peak season (1991): 8.2 ppg, 5.9 apg, 2.72 A:TO, 45.7 FG%, 72.5 FT%, 41.3 3Pt%, 57.2 TS%, 2.84 WORP / 35 games
  • Career averages (4 years): 6.2 ppg, 4.5 apg, 2.19 A:TO, 42.7 FG%, 76.4 FT%, 34.9 3Pt%, 55.1 TS%, 6.40 Career WORP, 2.00 WORP / 1,000 minutes
  • Accolades: starter on one Final Four team
10 Best Career A:TO: UNC Point Guards
Player A:TO
Ty Lawson 2.78
Kendall Marshall 2.50
Jeff Lebo (combo) 2.21
King Rice 2.19
Ed Cota 2.19
Jeff McInnis 2.18
Kenny Smith 2.06
Bobby Frasor (combo) 1.98
Raymond Felton 1.93
Derrick Phelps 1.88

King Rice’s 2.72 A:TO as a senior in ’91 was the gold standard among true Carolina point guards (a freshman Lebo had a 2.98 as a freshman combo (mainly shooting guard) in ’86) until Ty Lawson demolished it with his 3.48 in ’09. As seen in the following table, his career A:TO holds up well in the pantheon of Carolina point guards, too:

Rice also made 41.3% (26-63) of his 3-pointers as a senior after making just 32.2% (49-152) over his first three collegiate seasons. Always a solid on-ball defender, Rice earns bonus points for frustrating a freshman Bobby Hurley to tears (and 10 turnovers in their first match-up). He consistently bested Hurley in their head-to-head match-ups in 1990 and 1991. Rice’s 1991 season is one of the most underrated of any Carolina point guard, and he played a huge role in ending UNC’s Final Four drought that extended from 1983-1990.

66. Kevin Madden:1986-1990, SF, 6’5″, 215, Staunton, VA

  • Peak season (1989): 14.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 58.8 FG%, 61.0 FT%, 60.5 TS%, 2.43 WORP / 35 games
  • Career averages (4 years): 9.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 58.1 FG%, 66.2 FT%, 61.3 TS%, 5.87 Career WORP, 2.05 WORP / 1,000 minutes
  • Accolades: one 2nd-team All-ACC

A powerfully-built wing, Madden did much of his offensive damage on the low block. An efficient scorer who was adept at getting to the rim, Madden made 58.1% of his field goals in his Carolina career. Not a great passer, rebounder, or defender, most of Madden’s value was tied to his scoring prowess. After scoring 14.7 per game as a junior (2nd-team All-ACC), Madden slumped to 10.1 as a senior. He was terrific in the 1989 NCAAT, scoring 18 PPG on 63.2% shooting in UNC’s 3 games.

65. Steve Bucknall: 1986-89, SG/SF, 6’6″, 210, London, England

  • Peak season (1989): 13.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 5.3 apg, 46.2 FG%, 78.5 FT%, 41.9 3Pt%, 60.2 TS%, 2.78 WORP / 35 games
  • Career averages (4 years): 7.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.9 apg, 47.8 FG%, 75.5 FT%, 42.3 3Pt%, 57.6 TS%, 5.18 Career WORP, 1.99 WORP / 1,000 minutes
  • Accolades: one 2nd-team All-ACC

Bucknall was one of the most versatile players in the program’s history. No other Heel has matched his senior-season line of 13/4/5 in PPG/RPG/APG (Felton had a couple of 12.9/4/5 seasons, McInnis had a 12/4/5, and Calabria had a 12/4/4). He won the team’s Carmichael-Cobb award in 1988, too (for best defender). Bucknall also developed into an excellent perimeter shooter by his senior season (he attempted 148 3s in ’89 after trying just 20 during the first two seasons of the 3-point arc), and had career shooting numbers of 48/76/42. Bucknall was one of six Tar Heels to average in double-digits in 1989 (the only Carolina team ever with six 10+ PPG scorers), earning 2nd-team All-ACC honors in that season. Bucknall’s legacy is hampered by UNC’s (relative) lack of postseason success during his tenure. He was an integral part of UNC’s ’89 ACC Tournament championship, and went out in typical Bucknall style with 10 points, 7 rebounds, 10 assists, and 3 steals in Carolina’s Sweet 16 loss to Michigan in 1989.

64. Jason Capel: 1999-2002, SF/SG/PF, 6’8″, 230, Fayetteville, NC

  • Peak season (2001): 11.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 3.4 apg, 47.0 FG%, 78.5 FT%, 41.8 3Pt%, 61.2 TS%, 2.83 WORP / 35 games
  • Career averages (4 years): 12.1 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 2.7 apg, 44.7 FG%, 82.3 FT%, 37.5 3Pt%, 58.4 TS%, 5.45 Career WORP, 1.42 WORP / 1,000 minutes
  • Accolades: two-time 3rd-team All-ACC, one regional All-Tournament team, starter on one Final Four team

Speaking of versatile contributors, Capel, a 4-year starter, played extensively at three different positions while in Chapel Hill. As a freshman in ’99, Capel started at the 2 in a huge (and slooooow) line-up alongside Okulaja, Lang, and Haywood. With the arrival of Joe Forte in 2000, Capel slid down to his more natural small forward position for the next two seasons. As a senior, he started at the 4 and led the Heels in rebounding in his new role. Capel was the consummate role player who struggled some when asked to be the go-to guy in ’02 (his TS% dropped from 61.2 to 56.6). He did have a couple solid postseason runs for the Heels– averaging 9.8 PPG, 6.5 RPG, and 3.0 APG on his way to South Regional All-Tournament honors in ’00, and 13.0/7.8/4.8 APG in 5 postseason games in 2001 (including a TS% of 68.7 and an A:TO of 4.8). While the 2001 Heels weren’t at their best in March, it was probably the best stretch of basketball in Capel’s UNC career.   

63. Ademola Okulaja: 1996-1999, SF/PF, 6’9″, 230, Berlin, Germany

  • Peak season (1999): 13.9 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 2.4 apg, 44.2 FG%, 74.5 FT%, 43.1 3Pt%, 56.7 TS%, 2.33 WORP / 35 games
  • Career averages (4 years): 9.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 2.4 apg, 43.8 FG%, 68.0 FT%, 37.4 3Pt%, 54.5 TS%, 5.58 Career WORP, 1.28 WORP / 1,000 minutes
  • Accolades: one 1st-team All-ACC, one All-ACC Tournament team, starter on two Final Four teams

After losing Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, and Shammond Williams after the 1998 season, senior Okulaja stepped up in 1999 with an All-ACC campaign. He scored just 10.2 pace-adjusted points per 40 minutes in his first three seasons before spiking that number to 16.5 as a senior. As the last remaining Musketeer, Okulaja delivered one of the great step-up senior seasons in UNC history. He was always a solid defender, tough rebounder, and capable passer. But during his middle two seasons, Okulaja went through a prolonged shooting slump (that he thankfully snapped out of in ’99). As a freshman and senior, Okulaja made 46.3% of his field goals, 74.4% of his free throws, and 44.4% of his 3s. But as a sophomore and junior, those percentages dropped to 41.5/60.6/31.4.

62. Jawad Williams: 2002-05, PF, 6’9″, 225, Cleveland, OH

  • Peak season (2005): 13.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 54.1 FG%, 81.3 FT%, 38.1 3Pt%, 63.6 TS%, 2.06 WORP/ 35 games
  • Career averages (4 years): 12.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 48.7 FG%, 72.4 FT%, 34.9 3Pt%, 57.1 TS%, 5.48 Career WORP, 1.59 WORP / 1,000 minutes
  • Accolades: one 3rd-team All-ACC, starter on one Final Four/national championship team

Never a strong or natural rebounder, post defender, or low-block scorer, Williams battled hard in the paint throughout his UNC career. Although he scored more as a sophomore (14.9 PPG in ’03), his best year was as a senior in ’05. As a key complementary cog to UNC’s championship engine, Williams transformed himself from a volume scorer into an ultra-efficient secondary option. While he scored 25 points in an ’03 ACCT upset of Maryland, his best game as a Heel was saved for the biggest stage. In the ’05 Final Four versus Michigan State, Williams scored 20 points on 9-of-13 shooting while adding 8 rebounds. This included 12 of UNC’s 33 1st-half points, helping to keep the Heels in the game prior to their 2nd-half explosion.

61. Matt Doherty: 1981-84, SF, 6’8″, 215, East Meadow, NY

  • Peak season (1984): 9.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.0 apg, 49.4 FG%, 76.3 FT%, 54.5 TS%, 2.36 WORP / 35 games
  • Career averages (4 years): 9.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.5 apg, 47.7 FG%, 76.1 FT%, 54.5 TS%, 6.31 Career WORP, 1.55 WORP / 1,000 minutes
  • Accolades: one All-ACC Tournament team, starter on one Final Four/national championship team, top reserve on one Final Four team

Despite never making even 3rd-team All-ACC, Doherty was an integral contributor to four Tar Heel teams that won a combined 85% of their games (117-21). He was a steady presence on both ends of the court, and a player who helped out in every phase of the game. His signature moment as a player was probably his last-second 15-footer to send the ’84 Duke game into overtime. The Heels prevailed in the extra session, securing a Senior Day victory for Doherty and Sam Perkins. He also averaged 21 points, 7 rebounds, and 3.5 assists in the ’84 ACCT, despite a disappointing semifinal loss to Duke (likewise, he poured in 21.5 per game in the ’83 ACCT although the Heels were knocked out in the semis by NC State). Doherty also chipped in 16 points against Alabama in the ’82 Sweet 16, and 13 more versus Villanova in the Elite 8 on the way to UNC’s national title.

About Adrian

I'm the editor of Maple Street Press's Tar Heel Tip-off, and live in Raleigh with my wife and 2-year-old daughter. I grew up along the banks of the Allegheny River, and terrorized the WPIAL as a pass-first point guard. Follow me on Twitter @FreeportKid.
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8 Responses to Carolina’s Greatest Players of the ACC Era: 70-61

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  1. sanfransoxfan says:

    I think I predicted relevance somewhere in the 60’s? At least I’m starting to recognize names. Though if your analysis spits out Matt Doh at 61, I’m thinking you really should have done this as a “top 50.”

    And King Rice? You still “suck, you really, really suck.”

    1. tarheel4244 says:

      Rice far from sucks. I’m not sure which player you are or were looking at but the King Rice-Rick Fox combo was great !!! Ask Oklahoma.

  2. Davis is ranked higher than Wright because he partially played in his sophomore year, or because he was apart of a championship team? I can understand the latter, but if that plays a minimal role than Wright should be ranked higher. Wright’s 1 year>Davis’ 1 1/3.

    1. William says:

      I’m guessing he put more weight into being the top reserve on a championship team as well as sticking around for a 2nd year.

      I think I’d personally have to agree with you though and would rank Wright ahead of Davis.

      1. Adrian says:

        Yeah, Davis played 23 games in ’10, so it was closer to two-thirds of a season. In total, he played 1,357 minutes as a Tar Heel vs. 1,013 for Wright. As mentioned, I did give him credit for his role on the ’09 champs. Really, though, the two were just about equal in my analysis– not much of a difference between #68 and #69 (it was more about tiers rather than actual rankings).

        I definitely agree that Wright’s peak > Davis’s peak.

        1. tarheel4244 says:

          I believe we are still waiting on Wright to just show up, much less peak.

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