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Carolina's Finest The Star Heels

April 23, 1993
April 23, 1993

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April 23, 1993

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Carolina's Finest The Star Heels

THERE IS A BISTRO IN CHAPEL HILL CALLED THE FOUR CORners that
glorifies many of North Carolina's best basketball players by naming
sandwiches after them. One can bite into the Fabulous Phil (roast
beef and turkey, named for Phil Ford), the Daugherty (a deep-fried
chicken sandwich, for Brad) or nosh on a Rick's Reuben (in honor of
Rick Fox). Most of the Tar Heels' top stars have made the menu, but
it's a testament to Carolina's rich hoops history that Billy
Cunningham, one of the best forwards ever, can't even get
immortalized at the Four Corners.
Trying to choose North Carolina's alltime all-star team can give
anybody indigestion. No fewer than 30 All-Americas and 12 Olympians
have played for the Tar Heels. The uniform numbers of 13 of them hang
from the Dean Dome rafters. Remember, however, that even though 23
North Carolina players have been first-round NBA draft choices and 11
former Tar Heels are active in the league, our task was to consider
only their college performances and pick the best Tar Heel, plus a
runner-up, at each position.
To do so left open the possibility of a slight, of course. Among
those who have every right to be sore are three-time first-team
All-America Mike O'Koren and Tar Heel stalwarts Bob McAdoo, Al Wood
and Walter Davis. That said, we present the alltime All-Heel Team.

This is an article from the April 23, 1993 issue

Michael Jordan
It is difficult to pinpoint at what instant in his North Carolina
career Michael Jordan first flashed the form that would earn him the
sobriquet Air Jordan. Did it happen when he launched the game-winning
15-footer with 17 seconds left in the 1982 NCAA title game? Or was it
the night in January '83 that he launched himself from about 10 feet
away from the basket to reject a potential game-winning, last-second
layup by Maryland's Chuck Driesell? Or was it the night a month later
when he led the Tar Heels back from a 10-point deficit with four
minutes left against Ralph Sampson and Virginia, and completed that
comeback by making a steal and gliding the length of the court for
the winning dunk? Then again, maybe it was the time against Georgia
Tech when he first did what he then called his Demoralizer Dunk --
taking off from around the foul line and cupping the ball before
emphatically slamming it down. Said Yellow Jacket center Tim Harvey,
''I thought I was watching Superman.''
Jordan is in many ways the quintessential North Carolina player, a
wondrous talent who subjugated his natural flamboyance for the
benefit of the team. Though he was twice voted a consensus
All-America, it wasn't until '83-84, his final season with the Tar
Heels that he led the ACC in scoring, with an average of 19.4 points
a game. Thus Jordan's Carolina career will be remembered not for his
statistics but for those magical episodes when, for a few moments
anyway, he was simply unable to stop himself from performing some
basketball feat that coach Dean Smith had not authorized -- or even
dreamed of. Those occasions would provide the basketball world with a
taste of what Jordan would later become in the NBA. Said Jack
Hartmann, who coached Jordan in the '83 Pan Am Games, ''Sometimes I
felt cheated coaching him. Michael created so many incredible moves I
wanted to see them all again on instant replay. But I couldn't
because I was there, live.''

Phil Ford
In geometry classrooms across the state of North Carolina, it is
said, children are taught that every square has four corners and Phil
Ford. The 6 ft. 2 in. Ford ran coach Dean Smith's legendary
clock-sapping, four-corners offense so smoothly during his career as
a Carolina point guard in the mid- 1970s that Chapel Hill became
known on bumper stickers as Ford Corners, U.S.A. Ford's low dribble,
perfected by hours of daily play on an uneven backyard dirt court as
a child, served him well in the spread offense.
Ford was also known for the almost reckless disregard he had for
his own health. He won a gold medal in the 1976 Olympics while
playing every game with a broken bone in his left ankle. And nobody
ever left a cup of coffee on the scorer's table when Ford was in the
game. While playing against Texas Tech during the semifinals of the
1977 Rainbow Classic, Ford knocked a ball loose into the backcourt
and then made a mad headlong dash to retrieve it. He finally
collapsed chin-first in a desperate but unsuccessful attempt to save
the ball from going out of bounds. Brigham Young coach Frank Arnold,
who was in the stands, was so moved that he left his seat and walked
onto the court to applaud Ford's effort.
It is Ford's albatross that he became so identified with not
scoring that some fans don't realize he is the leading scorer in
Carolina history, with 2,290 points. He was also a three-time
first-team All-America who played seven seasons in the NBA before he
fell victim to alcohol and cocaine abuse. He returned to Chapel Hill
as an assistant coach in 1988. Still, despite his scoring records, it
seems Ford will never find his way out of the four corners. ''If I
wanted to choose the ideal qualities in a guard the result would be
Phil Ford because of his special blend of talent and desire,'' Smith
once said. ''He ran the four corners so well they should have
outlawed it.'' To some extent, the introduction of the 45-second shot
clock was an effort to do just that.

Lennie Rosenbluth
If all Lennie Rosenbluth ever did for North Carolina was average a
school- record 27.9 points a game as a senior to lead the 1956-57
team to an undefeated season and a national championship, he would
have done quite enough. But Rosenbluth was a forefather as well.
Rosenbluth, a 6 ft. 5 in. forward, had come to Chapel Hill only
after failing a tryout with legendary coach Everett Case, whose North
Carolina State teams completely dominated the area. Rosenbluth
figured he would end up attending a school near his home in the
Bronx. That is, until St. John's coach Frank McGuire announced that
he was leaving New York to coach at North Carolina. McGuire asked
Rosenbluth to be one of his first recruits, and Rosenbluth agreed.
In Rosenbluth's first varsity season he scored 25.5 points per
game, but the Tar Heels still finished with a 10-11 record. The
following year Carolina improved to 18-5, and Rosenbluth averaged
26.6 points. But the team was gaining momentum, and in 1956-57,
North Carolina put together its dream undefeated season.
Rosenbluth kicked off the year by scoring a school-record 47
points in Carolina's opening-game win over Furman. As the year
progressed, Rosenbluth, who was a hypochondriac of the highest order,
developed a bad cough that he made certain everybody knew about.
Finally, one night at Wake Forest, when Rosenbluth's hacking was
interrupting McGuire's chalk talk, the coach said, ''Lennie, you're
obviously dying. Get dressed, we'll call off the game and drive you
home.'' Unamused, Rosenbluth went out and scored 30 points.
North Carolina's 1957 NCAA championship has since come to be
viewed as a seminal moment for basketball in the South, for the
fledgling Atlantic Coast Conference which had been formed only four
years earlier and, of course, for McGuire and North Carolina. Give a
lot of credit to the skinny kid from the Bronx who won the National
Player of the Year award that year.

Billy Cunningham
The most pivotal move Billy Cunningham ever made for North
Carolina did not take place on a basketball court. It was Jan. 6,
1965, and the Tar Heels had just returned to campus after a fourth
consecutive defeat, and the locals were getting restless. As the team
bus pulled up to Carmichael Auditorium the players were disgusted to
find that their young coach, Dean Smith, had been hung in effigy.
Cunningham, a senior from Brooklyn, leaped off the bus and quickly
tore down the effigy. North Carolina would go on to upset its
archrival, Duke, in its next game, at Durham three days later. From
there the Tar Heels would win nine of their final 12 games that
season.
It was appropriate that the 6 ft. 5 in. Cunningham, a forward who
was often forced to play center at Carolina, was the one to
jump-start the Tar Heels. He was one of the best jumpers in Carolina
history, earning the nickname Kangaroo Kid while playing for the Tar
Heel freshmen. Cunningham finished with a career average of 15.4
boards a game, best in Carolina history. ''I don't know whether it
will be John Glenn or Cunningham who will make the first trip to the
moon,'' said Wake Forest coach Bones McKinney. ''Cunningham is
already within striking distance.''
Though he also averaged 24.8 points per game over his three
varsity seasons, Cunningham will perhaps be best remembered for his
fiery temperament. He displayed his obstinate nature during one
memorable game in Chapel Hill in which he received a technical from
referee Zigmund Mihalik for slamming the ball to the floor after
disagreeing with a foul call. Mihalik and Cunningham stared at each
other as the ball came down toward the court. ''I whispered that he'd
better catch the ball, or he's got two technicals,'' said Mihalik.
''Of course, Billy let it drop.''

Sam Perkins
For as long as anybody can remember, there has been a bronze
statue of a Civil War hero with the nickname Silent Sam on the North
Carolina campus. For several years in the early 1980s there was
another monumental presence on campus, a basketball hero who was also
nicknamed Silent Sam. It is hard to say which was the less
loquacious. Sam Perkins, the basketball player, toiled for four years
in Chapel Hill and there was hardly a peep out of him.
Perkins, who at 6 ft. 9 in. played both center and forward for the
Tar Heels, always chalked up his reserved nature to his upbringing as
the grandson of a Jehovah's Witness. But he insisted that he was
always aggressive on the court, especially under the boards, where he
grabbed a school-record 1,167 rebounds during his career. Perkins was
able to corral many of those rebounds because of his lengthy
wingspan, which required 41-inch sleeves -- such an extraordinary
number for a sleeve length that Perkins also wore it on his back.
What sometimes gets lost in the rebounding stats is the rest of
Perkins's game. He also had a feathery outside jumper that helped
make him Carolina's second-leading alltime scorer, with 2,145 points.

Constantly overshadowed by his flashier teammates, Michael Jordan
and James Worthy, Perkins may have revealed the secret to his quiet
effectiveness very early in his career. At his first ACC tournament,
in 1981, he dominated three straight opponents, scoring a total of 53
points and grabbing 25 rebounds as Carolina rolled to the title.
Perkins was named the tournament MVP, and afterward he responded
patiently for several minutes to the media's questions about his
accomplishments. Perkins then paused and said, ''Let me ask you
something. Why is everybody making such a big deal about this? I
mean, we're just playing basketball.''

All-Star Second Team
TALK ABOUT A BLUE TEAM. THE SECOND team of North Carolina
all-stars is a group that Dean Smith would have no trouble subbing in
as a quintet, as he did with his famous Blue Team reserve units of
the late 1970s. In this case, he wouldn't lose much firepower by
going to his bench.
% At shooting guard there is Charlie Scott. A highly recruited,
6 ft. 5 in. player out of New York City, Scott chose to become one of
the first black players to accept an athletic scholarship at a
predominantly white Southern school. Because of that, Scott faced
pressures unknown to a lot of collegians. He was showered with racial
slurs during his first ACC road games, but he got the last laugh by
averaging 22.1 points in his career and leading North Carolina to two
Final Fours. Still, there were bitter feelings when he was twice
passed up for ACC Player of the Year in favor of South Carolina's
John Roche, even though Scott was a first-team All-America in both
seasons. Scott suggested that the votes were tainted, but he chose to
take his revenge on the basketball floor. ''The greatest thing about
Charlie is that he's a winner,'' said Larry Brown, then an assistant
to Smith. ''That's all he thinks about. Charlie's the kind of guy who
thinks he can go out on the street, round up four people and beat the
Celtics.''
Next to Lennie Rosenbluth, the most pivotal player in North
Carolina history is Larry Miller. After Lew Alcindor, Miller, a
scrappy 6 ft. 4 in. forward, was the most sought-after recruit in the
nation during the 1963-64 season, his senior year at Catasauqua (Pa.)
High. Miller appeared certain to attend Duke, which had the best
basketball program in the ACC of that era, but he surprisingly opted
for North Carolina. Miller came to Chapel Hill at a time when the Tar
Heels had struggled for several seasons and Smith's job appeared to
be in jeopardy. But behind Miller, a two-time first-team All-America
who averaged 21.8 points a game in his career, Carolina reached the
Final Four in 1967 and '68. Former teammate Billy Cunningham summed
it up best when he said, ''Miller was the key, the one player who
turned it around for Dean.''
It's not often that a guy picked first in the NBA draft has
college stats like those of James Worthy, a 6 ft. 9 in. forward.
Playing in Carolina's egalitarian system, he averaged only 14.5
points and 7.4 rebounds during his three-year Tar Heel career. These
relatively paltry stats hid the fact that Worthy was a dominating
inside player who was named first-team All-America in 1981 and '82.
When he decided to leave Carolina after his junior season, he was the
pros' No. 1 pick, by the Los Angeles Lakers, for whom he would star
on three NBA championship teams. Why was Worthy the No. 1 pick? It
didn't hurt that he scored 28 points to secure the national
championship in his last . college game. ''James always played big
in big games,'' Sam Perkins once said about Worthy's performance in
the title game. ''But he was incredible that night. That's the most
explosive game I've ever seen.''
At 16 years, 10 months, Brad Daugherty arrived in Chapel Hill
barely old enough to drive a car, much less the lane at Carmichael
Auditorium. He was still a kid, not far removed from the days in
rural Black Mountain, N.C., where he would capture snakes in a local
pond and drop them off in people's automobiles as a prank. But
Daugherty fit so well into Smith's system that he was starting at
center by the 10th game of his freshman season. He would mature into
the ACC's top percentage shooter from the field, hitting nearly 62%
for his career, including a memorable 13 for 13 in the 1985-86 opener
against UCLA. Daugherty also matured mentally. ''You come out of high
school and your head is bigger than a backboard,'' Daugherty said
during his senior year. ''I couldn't understand all of that strategy
stuff ((as a freshman)). I thought it was stupid. I look back and see
how young and ignorant I was.''
The point guard for these all-stars, Kenny Smith, came to Carolina
as ''the other guard,'' which is the way it goes when you start in
the backcourt opposite Michael Jordan. But Smith was slick enough to
be one of only eight Tar Heels to start his first game as a freshman.
He rewarded Smith's faith in him by developing into Carolina's
alltime assist leader as well as placing second on the career steal
list. Nicknamed the Jet at Archbishop Molloy High in New York City,
Smith could move the ball up the court in a hurry, and he was also an
exceptional leaper who at 6 ft. 2 in. made some dazzling dunks while
averaging almost 13 points a game. ''One second Kenny was there, then
the next he was out of sight,'' said Jordan. ''He was like a
rocket.''