ACC 50th Anniversary Team
GREENSBORO, N.C., Sept. 26, 2002 -- When the Atlantic Coast Conference revealed it’s 50th Anniversary Basketball Team on Thursday, six former Denver Nuggets – David Thompson, Walter Davis, Bobby Jones, John Roche, Charles Scott and John Lucas, – found themselves among the honorees. A seventh ex-Nugget, Bryant Stith, appeared in an all-time ACC team named by North Carolina newspaper The Charlotte Observer this week.
The 50-member team was voted on by a 120-member blue-ribbon committee that was selected by the league's 50th Anniversary Committee and the names were announced by Conference Commissioner John Swofford Thursday morning in Greensboro, N.C.
While the names announced by the ACC were listed alphabetically without regard to significance, The Observer’s list did rank their choices from 1-50. The ranking, chosen by the newspaper’s writers and editors, had Thompson atop the list, with Scott seventh, Lucas 16th, Roche 20th, Jones 39th, Stith 43rd and Davis 45th. Current Washington Wizard and former Duke star Christian Laettner was second.
Thompson, generally regarded as the greatest men's basketball player in ACC history, was conference player of the year three times, and national player of the year twice during his time at North Carolina State (1973-75). The high-flying scoring machine also led the Wolfpack to the NCAA title in 1974.
“Most times guys are better in their own minds than they really are. David was just the opposite,” former N.C. State coach Norman Sloan said.
The No. 1 pick in the 1975 NBA Draft, Thompson instead chose to play for the Nuggets, then of the ABA, spending seven extraordinary seasons in Denver (1975-82), his career highlighted by an electric 73-point performance against the Pistons on April 9, 1978. “Skywalker” had his No. 33 retired by the Nuggets in 1992 and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1996.
Scott, Jones, and Davis each excelled under the tutelage of Dean Smith at North Carolina before later having stints in their pro careers with the Nuggets. Scott, the first black scholarship athlete at Carolina (1968-70), and one of the first at a Southern university, was a two-time first-team All-American leading the Tar Heels to two Final Fours and averaging 27.1 points and 8.6 rebounds his senior season. He spent two seasons with Nuggets (1978-80) averaging 10.7 points per game.
“(Scott) was as good as they get on the college level,” Philadelphia 76ers coach and former Tar Heel Larry Brown said.
Jones, one of only two players to lead the ACC in field goal percentage three times (1972-74), played with the Nuggets from 1974-78 appearing in 45 playoff games during that span averaging 13 points and 8 rebounds in the postseason.
“I could put him on David Thompson if he was killing us and Bobby would stop him,” Smith said commenting on Jones defensive prowess.
Davis (1974-77) was a pure shooter who led Carolina to two ACC Championships and the Final Four in 1977. The Phoenix Suns all-time leading scorer, Davis spent most of the final four seasons (1988-92) of his 15-year NBA career with the Nuggets, averaging 25.7 points a game in the 1989 playoffs.
“A pure shooter. (Davis) didn't miss from 15 feet. He was very underrated,” Smith said of the current Washington Wizards scout.
John Roche, the only South Carolina (1969-71) player to make the list, was a two-time ACC Player of the Year when the Gamecocks were still members of the conference. He spent eight seasons in the ABA-NBA playing his final three in Denver (1979-82) and today works in the city as an attorney.
“He put South Carolina basketball on the map,” former South Carolina player and Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins said of Roche.
Stith finished his stellar career at Virginia (1988-92) as the school’s all-time leading scorer (4th in ACC history) and second on the rebounding list. He was drafted 13th overall by Denver in 1992 and played eight with the team (1992-2000), including the Nuggets’ improbable upset of top-seed Seattle in the first round of the 1994 playoffs. Although he was one of five players named to The Observer Top 50 who did not appear on the ACC’s list, he actually ranked higher than Davis in the newspaper’s rankings.
“When you look at what the consummate player should be, Bryant Stith fit the mold nicely,” former Wake Forest and current South Carolina coach Dave Odom said.
John Lucas never played with the Nuggets, but the former Maryland (1973-76) point guard spent three seasons in Denver as an assistant coach. Now the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Lucas was the No. 1 pick in the 1976 NBA Draft following a stellar college career in which he was selected All-ACC first team and All-American three times.
“He was a natural leader, which is what you look for in a point guard,” former Maryland coach Lefty Driesell said.
The ACC, founded in 1953, has been a men’s basketball powerhouse throughout its existence, boasting 34 Final Fours teams and nine NCAA Championships.
North Carolina led all league schools with 12 members on the Golden Anniversary team while Duke was second with 11 honorees. Maryland had eight players selected, followed by Wake Forest (5), Georgia Tech and NC State (4), Virginia (3), Clemson (2) and South Carolina with one. South Carolina was a charter member but resigned from the league in 1971. Florida State, who joined the conference in 1991, did not have a representative.
|ACC's 50th Anniversary Basketball Team|
Player, School/Years Played, Hometown, (Observer Top 50 ranking NR=Not Ranked)
Players that appeared on The Charlotte Observer Top 50 ranking but not ACC 50th Anniversary Team:
Mitch Kupchak - North Carolina 1972-76 (No. 37), Bob Verga - Duke 1964-67 (No. 42), Bryant Stith - Virginia 1988-92 (No. 43), Tom Owens - South Carolina 1968-71 (No. 48) and Rod Griffin - Wake Forest 1974-78 (No. 50).
Some information and quotes in this story are courtesy of The Charlotte Observer.