Carolina’s Greatest Players of the ACC Era: 50-41

If you’re just tuning in, catch up with past installments: 100-91 (+ methodology),
90-81, 80-71, 70-61, and 60-51.

50. Bill Bunting: 1967-69, PF, 6’8″, 195, New Bern, NC

  • Peak season (1969): 18.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 59.8 FG%, 82.7 FT%, 64.8 TS%
  • Career averages (3 years): 11.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 51.4 FG%, 74.0 FT%, 56.3 TS%
  • Accolades: one 1st-team All-ACC, one regional All-Tournament team, starter of three Final Four teams

Along with classmates Grubar and Clark, Bunting moved right into the starting line-up as a sophomore in ’67, joining “The L & M Boys” (Bob Lewis and Larry Miller) in bringing Dean Smith his first Final Four appearance. Bunting, a three-year starter, was just a role player in his first two seasons (7.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG) before busting out in his All-ACC senior campaign (18.0 PPG, 7.7 RPG). It wasn’t just a matter of having more opportunities, either: after shooting 44.0% from the field and 66.3% from the line as a sophomore/junior, he improved those percentages to 59.8% and 82.7% in 1969. Bunting’s junior-to-senior PPG increase of +10.1 trails only Donnie Walsh’s (+10.2) in Carolina history. Bunting was a huge contributor in the ’69 postseason, too: chipping in 16.0 PPG/9.3 RPG in the ACC Tournament, 18.0/8.5 in the East Regional, and 19 and 7 in the Final Four loss to Purdue. While the Class of ’69 never got over the hump in the Final Four, its three consecutive trips there left an indelible mark on the program– especially considering they were the first three of the Dean Smith era.

49. Bill Chamberlain: 1970-72, PF/SF, 6’6″, 188,New York, NY

  • Peak season (1971): 14.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.8 apg, 57.2 FG%, 70.7 FT%, 59.9 TS%
  • Career averages (3 years): 12.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.5 apg, 54.0 FG%, 70.2 FT%, 56.9 TS%
  • Accolades: one 2nd-team All-American, one 2nd-team All-ACC, one NIT MVP, one NIT All-Tournament team, starter on one Final Four team

Like Tommy LaGarde, Chamberlain earned 2nd-team All-American honors without ever making 1st-team All-ACC. Following in the footsteps of fellow New Yorker Charlie Scott, Chamberlain became the second African-American to play varsity basketball at UNC (pioneering Willie Cooper played on the freshman team in the fall of ’64). A defensive stopper, Chamberlain was the last line of defense in UNC’s vaunted 2-2-1 press. He also held UMass star Julius Erving to 13 points in the 1971 NIT (while scoring 24 himself). The ’71 NIT was Chamberlain’s shining moment as a Heel; he added 19 against Providence and a career-high 34 versus Georgia Tech in the championship game. As a senior in ’72, Chamberlain lost some scoring opportunities to newcomers Bob McAdoo and Bobby Jones (his scoring average dropped from 14.4 to 10.9). But his all-around game remained very strong, warranting an NBA Coaches 2nd-team All-American nod at the end of the year. 

48. Larry Brown: 1961-63, PG, 5’11”, 160, Long Beach, NY

  • Peak season (1962): 16.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 44.1 FG%, 79.5 FT%, 53.2 TS%
  • Career averages (3 years): 11.8 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 5.2 apg, 45.0 FG%, 78.1 FT%, 53.0 TS%
  • Accolades: one 1st-team All-ACC, one 2nd-team All-ACC

As a sophomore, Brown was a key backcourt piece on Frank McGuire’s 19-4 Heels who won the ACC regular-season crown. With seniors Doug Moe and York Larese carrying the scoring load, Brown scored an efficient 4.5 PPG that season (51.9 FG%, 73.5 FT%) while running the team. As a junior, in Dean Smith’s first year at the helm, Brown’s scoring average exploded to a team-high 16.5 PPG for the undermanned 8-9 Tar Heels. Billy Cunningham joined the varsity in ’63, allowing a senior Brown to once again focus more on play-making. His career average of 5.2 APG still ranks 7th in school history, and his 13 assists in an ACC Tournament game remains a Carolina record (he added 12 points and 7 rebounds in that game, an opening-round win over South Carolina). A scrappy player (right, Art Heyman?), Brown was adept at drawing fouls (career FTA Rate of 57.8) and shot an excellent 78% from the line in his career. He’d go on to become a Hall of Fame coach, of course, but that’s not factored into this ranking.

47. Jeff Lebo: 1986-89, SG/PG, 6’3″, 180, Carlisle, PA

  • Peak season (1987): 13.5 ppg, 4.2 apg, 53.2 FG%, 84.9 FT%, 45.0 3Pt%, 67.9 TS%, 2.42 WORP / 35 games
  • Career averages (4 years): 11.8 ppg, 4.4 apg, 47.9 FG%, 83.9 FT%, 42.8 3Pt%, 61.7 TS%, 8.61 Career WORP, 2.13 WORP / 1,000 minutes
  • Accolades: one 2nd-team All-ACC, two All-ACC Tournament teams

Lebo was one of the most consistent 4-year performers in Carolina history. In each of his collegiate seasons, Lebo amassed a WORP / 35 of between 2.00 and 2.42. Limited physically, he never developed into a superstar or All-American type. But the things Lebo did well (ball protection, decision-making, shooting), he did well from his first day on campus. After playing most of his minutes at the 2 as a freshman and sophomore (in addition to backing up Kenny Smith at the 1), Lebo replaced Smith as the starting point guard in ’88 and ’89. As seen in the table below, Lebo compared favorably in terms of career production to other Tar Heels who played significant minutes at the 2. While his career WORP is third on the 13-player list, his peak season is only 12th. His relatively low peak value keeps him behind other higher-peak players (like Joe Forte, Rashad McCants, Shammond Williams, et al.) on this list. He’s also hurt a little by his teams’ lack of NCAAT success. Despite never being great, there’s plenty of value in being consistently very good. And that’s the story of Jeff Lebo’s Carolina career.

Career Statistics of Selected UNC Shooting Guards: Ranked by Career WORP

Player Minutes PA Pts/40 PA Asst/40 TS% Max WORP / 35 Career WORP
Michael Jordan 3107 24.1 2.5 58.3 4.86 11.45
Vince Carter 2677 19.5 3.0 62.2 3.98 8.64
Jeff Lebo 4048 14.4 5.3 61.7 2.42 8.61
Hubert Davis 2919 20.6 2.3 62.4 3.72 8.27
Rashad McCants 2863 23.0 2.7 59.7 3.76 7.64
Shammond Williams 3191 18.6 5.1 61.5 3.42 6.98
Wayne Ellington 3278 19.4 3.0 57.7 2.68 6.38
Donald Williams 2901 19.8 2.7 55.5 3.06 6.14
Steve Hale 3176 12.0 6.4 57.8 3.04 6.06
Joseph Forte 2325 21.7 3.5 54.4 4.02 5.52
Jeff Capel 3839 14.9 3.4 58.4 2.83 5.45
Steve Bucknall 2605 13.8 5.4 57.6 2.78 5.18
Dante Calabria 3188 13.7 4.2 59.0 1.67 4.67

46. Donald Williams: 1992-95, SG, 6’3″, 194, Garner, NC

  • Peak season (1993): 14.3 ppg, 45.8 FG%, 82.9 FT%, 41.7 3Pt%, 60.6 TS%, 3.06 WORP / 35 games
  • Career averages (4 years): 11.8 ppg, 43.3 FG%, 74.5 FT%, 38.6 3Pt%, 55.5 TS%, 6.14 Career WORP, 2.12 WORP  / 1,000 minutes
  • Accolades: one Final Four MVP, one Final Four All-Tournament team, two regional All-Tournament teams

Williams’s enduring legacy as a Tar Heel will forever be tied to his performance at the 1993 Final Four. Then-sophomore Williams hit 10-of-14 3-pointers en route to 50 points in wins against Kansas and Michigan (5-of-7 from deep with 25 points in each wonderfully-consistent game). His pull-up 3 off the dribble was a thing of beauty– perfect form and indefensible when it was on. Donald trails only another Williams (Scott) for most points ever by a Tar Heel who never made an All-ACC team (1,492). He made up for his lack of ACC accolades by making three NCAA All-Tournament teams, however (two regional and one Final Four). Williams’s UNC career is almost a tale of two shooters. After separating his shoulder as a junior (he also had a stress fracture in his foot that season), Williams’s jumper was never the same. Neither was his confidence. Following up on his legendary Final Four performance, The Donald was off to an All-American start in 1994. Through 10 games, he was averaging 20.6 points on 52/84/45 shooting. After missing several games due to his injuries, Williams averaged just 10.4 points on 35/67/24 shooting the rest of the way (in 16 games). An 80+% free-throw shooter before his injury, Williams made just 64% from the stripe post-injury (including his senior season). While his Carolina career remains a bit of a “What Could Have Been?”, his brilliance under the brightest lights secures his spot in Tar Heel lore.

45. Brendan Haywood: 1998-2001, C, 7’0″, 270, Greensboro, NC

  • Peak season (2001): 12.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 3.6 bpg, 59.2 FG%, 51.6 FT%, 58.0 TS%, 3.62 WORP / 35 games
  • Career averages (4 years): 10.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.2 bpg, 63.7 FG%, 59.4 FT%, 63.4 TS%, 9.13 Career WORP, 2.75 WORP / 1,000 minutes
  • Accolades: one 2nd-team All-American, one 2nd-team All-ACC, one 3rd-team All-ACC, starter on one Final Four team, reserve on one Final Four team

With apologies to John Henson’s shot-blocking brilliance in 2011, Haywood’s senior season (2001) is still Carolina’s gold standard for swatting. Haywood blocked 12.1% of opponents’ 2-pointers, had 5.2 pace-adjusted blocks per 40, and played 27.3 MPG. Henson’s numbers were 11.1%, 4.6, and 26.7 (Warren Martin (’86) and Kevni Salvadori (’92) are in the conversation, too, on a per-minute basis– but there’s a big difference between defending the rim for 15 MPG vs. 25+ MPG). While losing Ronald Curry and Joe Forte played a factor, too, the loss of Haywood was the biggest reason why the Heels went from allowing 95.4 points / 100 possessions in 2001 to 108.2 in 2002. Like LaGarde and Chamberlain, Haywood earned 2nd-team All-American status without 1st-team All-ACC recognition. Offensively, Haywood was a super-efficient scorer, mainly by focusing on dunks/lay-ups. He set a school record in 2000 by making 69.7% of his field goals. Without Cota in 2001 (and as a result of diversifying his post game a little), that FG% dropped to 59.2%. He also got progressively worse at the foul line in his 3 years as a starter (67% in ’99, 60% in ’00, 52% in ’01). Never a fantastic rebounder for his size, Haywood was much-maligned for parts of his Carolina career (fueled, in large part, by the 1-point, 0-rebound egg he laid in 24 minutes against Weber State in the ’99 NCAAT upset). His best moment as a Heel might have been a 28-point, 15-rebound effort against Missouri in the 2000 NCAAT 1st Round. As a player who could dominate a game without ever attempting a shot, Haywood’s role as a paint enforcer earns him a spot in the top 50.

44. Rusty Clark: 1967-69, C, 6’10”, 228, Fayetteville, NC

  • Peak season (1968): 15.8 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 47.6 FG%, 68.5 FT%, 51.7 TS%
  • Career averages (3 years): 14.7 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 51.1 FG%, 69.9 FT%, 55.1 TS%
  • Accolades: one 2nd-team All-ACC, one regional MVP, two regional All-Tournament teams, starter on three Final Four teams

Dean Smith’s first true big man, Clark (along with classmates Bunting and Grubar) helped put the program over the hump in the post-McGuire era. One of only seven Heels to average a career double-double (Rosenbluth, Brennan, Moe, Cunningham, McAdoo, and May were the others), Clark was a consistent contributor on both ends. He saved some of his best performances for the postseason, averaging 15.5 and 13.5 rebounds in the ’67 East Regional (including an 18/18 versus Boston College in the Regional final to secure Smith’s first Final Four trip). Clark followed that up with a 19 points (a team high) and 11 boards in a Final Four loss to Dayton. In ’68, Clark racked up six consecutive postseason double-doubles (three in the ACCT, 2 in the East Regional, one in the Final Four) before being dominated by Lew Alcindor in the title game (join the club, Dr. Clark). He was especially good in the two regional games– earning MVP honors by averaging 20 points and 13.5 rebounds (including 22 and 17 against Davidson to clinch UNC’s second straight Final Four trip). In ’69, Clark’s 20 points and 9 rebounds were both team highs in the Final Four loss to Purdue. Never a superstar or go-to scorer, Clark was a consistent producer with a fantastic postseason resume. 

43. Shammond Williams: 1995-98, SG, 6’2″, 185, Greenville, SC

  • Peak season (1998): 16.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 4.2 apg, 48.8 FG%, 91.1 FT%, 40.0 3Pt%, 64.0 TS%, 3.42 WORP  /35 games
  • Career averages (4 years): 10.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 3.0 apg, 45.5 FG%, 84.9 FT%, 40.3 3Pt%, 61.5 TS%, 6.98 Career WORP, 2.19 WORP / 1,000 minutes
  • Accolades: one 3rd-team All-American, one 2nd-team All-ACC, one 3rd-team All-ACC, one regional MVP, two regional All-Tournament teams, one ACC Tournament MVP, two All-ACC Tournament teams, starter on two Final Four teams, deep reserve on one Final Four team

Despite that laundry list of accolades, Williams is too often remembered for his Final Four shooting woes. And while that’s an unfortunate part of his legacy (3-25 from the field, 2-17 from behind the arc in two Final Four games), it’s important to consider just how crucial Williams was to UNC’s consecutive Final Four runs. Few Tar Heels have made greater freshman-to-senior improvements than Shammond. From a first-year back-up point guard with a cringe-worthy handle to a confident senior combo guard, Williams’s development was profound. As a freshman/sophomore, his A:TO was 1.08. As an upperclassman, it improved to 1.64. Prior to his 1-of-13 performance against Arizona, Williams had a dominating ’97 postseason run. He averaged 20 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 5 assists, while shooting 50% (9-18) from behind the arc to win the ’97 ACCT MVP. He followed that up with 16.5 PPG and 4.5 APG in the East Regional, including 22 and 6 in the Elite 8 win over Louisville. Williams added the regional MVP to his trophy case. In ’98, he was at it again: 18.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 2.7 APG in the ACCT, followed by 21 PPG and 3 APG in the East Regional (including 32 points (on 6-of-9 3-point shooting) and 5 assists in a Round of 32 OT victory against UNC-Charlotte). Antawn Jamison won the regional MVP in 1998, but it could have easily been awarded to Williams for the second consecutive year. Throw in Shammond’s signature Tar Heel performance– 42 points on 16 FGAs (11-16 from the field, 12-12 from the line, 8-11 from deep) in a 2OT win at Georgia Tech– and it’s clear that his highlights overshadow his Final Four failures.

42. Wayne Ellington: 2007-2009, SG, 6’4″, 200, Wynnewood, PA

  • Peak season (2009): 15.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 2.7 apg, 48.3 FG%, 77.7 FT%, 41.7 3Pt%, 60.4 TS%, 2.68 WORP / 35 games
  • Career averages (3 years): 14.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.2 apg, 46.3 FG%, 80.9 FT%, 39.7 3Pt%, 57.7 TS%, 6.38 Career WORP, 1.95 WORP / 1,000 minutes
  • Accolades: one 2nd-team All-ACC, Final Four MVP, one regional All-Tournament team, one Final Four All-Tournament team, two All-ACC Tournament teams, starter on two Final Four/one national championship team(s)

Like Donald Williams, Ellington solidified his place in Carolina history on the Final Four stage. Under the bright lights, he averaged 19.5 points and 6.5 rebounds while knocking down 8-of-10 3-pointers– a performance that earned him Final Four MVP (although a very strong case could have been made for Ty Lawson, too). In his three years at UNC, Ellington started on teams that won 88% of the time (100-14). For his career, he shot at a 46/81/40 clip– joining Kenny Smith, Ranzino Smith, Shammond Williams, Jimmy Braddock, Hubert Davis, and Jeff Lebo as the only Heels to achieve those percentages across the board. Ellington’s performance in the 2008 ACC Tournament was a prelude of things to come in the ’09 NCAA Tournament. In 3 games, he averaged 19.3 points (shooting 8-of-16 from 3-point range), 5.7 rebounds, and 2.7 assists as the Heels cut down the nets. This included 24/4/4 in the championship game against Clemson (an opponent that he routinely torched). With one of the smoothest strokes in Carolina history, Ellington’s big-game heroics vaulted him comfortably into the top 50.

41. Ed Cota: 1997-2000, PG, 6’1″, 185, Brooklyn, NY

  • Peak season (1998): 8.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 7.4 apg, 2.42 A:TO, 49.3 FG%, 82.4 FT%, 30.3 3Pt%, 58.3 TS%, 3.15 WORP / 35 games
  • Career averages (4 years): 9.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 7.5 apg, 2.19 A:TO, 45.2 FG%, 73.4 FT%, 37.2 3Pt%, 54.4 TS%, 9.97 Career WORP, 2.16 WORP / 1,000 minutes
  • Accolades: three 2nd-team All-ACC teams, ACC Rookie of the Year, three regional All-Tournament teams, starter on two Final Four teams, top reserve on one Final Four team

No one did it with any more style or grace than Ed Cota– his vision, creativity, and handle are unrivaled in UNC hoops history. He also led his teams to three Final Fours as a primary point guard (two as a starter, one as a 6th man/quasi-starter), a feat equaled only by Dick Grubar in Carolina history. Third all-time in assists in NCAA history, Cota amassed some huge counting numbers. Like Jeff Lebo, his career production is more impressive than his peak value (relative to his peers). This is illustrated in the table below: Cota ranks 3rd (among the 7 listed PGs– all very good-to-great college players) in career WORP, but falls to 5th in peak-season WORP and 6th in WORP / 1,000 minutes. Cota is the undisputed king of Carolina passers (although Kendall Marshall might have something to say about that after his career concludes): four of UNC’s top six seasons in pace-adjusted assists / 40 minutes belong to him (along with one each from Marshall and Quentin Thomas). However, his scoring efficiency took a big hit in the post-Jamison/Carter/Sh. Williams years (with a corresponding increase in usage), and defense was never a forte of Cota’s. Combine that with some mediocre Final Four performances (6.5 PPG, 5.5 APG, 1.57 A:TO in two games, plus losing individual battles to Mike Bibby and Andre Miller), and #41 looks about right for Cota. High enough to honor his fantastic career and consistency, but not quite in the range of higher-peaked Heels.

Career Statistics of Selected UNC Point Guards: Ranked by Career WORP

 Player Minutes  PA Pts/40  PA Asst/40 A:TO Max WORP/35 WORP/1,000 Career WORP
Ty Lawson  2835  18.2 8.1 2.78 5.47 3.96  11.24
Kenny Smith 4217 15.1 7.2 2.06 3.59 2.66 11.23
Ed Cota  4624  11.2  9.2 2.19 3.15 2.16 9.97
Derrick Phelps 3239 11.3 7.4 1.88 3.32 2.84 9.19
Raymond Felton 3421 14.1 7.8 1.93 3.52 2.46 8.41
Jeff McInnis 2745 16.6 6.4 2.18 3.04 2.39 6.56
King Rice 3206 9.9 7.2 2.19 2.84 2.00 6.40

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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5 Responses to Carolina’s Greatest Players of the ACC Era: 50-41

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