There have been hundreds of great players who have gone through the University of North Carolina over the years. Many have established themselves as Tar Heels legends and fans can instantly recall great moments from their college careers. But with so many NBA stars tracing their roots through Chapel Hill, it is easy to lose track of all of those who made their way through the school. With subsequent careers in the NBA or in coaching that overshadowed their play at UNC, or as a result of playing with more famous teammates while they were there, there are many players who fans simply forgot played for the University of North Carolina. Read on to be reminded of 15 great players who you probably forgot played for the North Carolina Tar Heels.
15. Hubert Davis
Currently an assistant coach for the University of North Carolina, Hubert Davis was the Tar Heels leading scorer as a senior. Despite averaging over 21 points per game in 1992, Davis only earned second team All-ACC honors. He led the team to the Sweet 16 as a senior and was a part of their 1991 Final Four team as well. Davis was drafted with the 20th overall selection in the 1992 NBA Draft by the New York Knicks. He played in the NBA for 12 seasons; his longest stints were with the Knicks and Dallas Mavericks for four seasons each. The highlight of his career was when he helped the Knicks win the Eastern Conference Championship in 1994 to make it to the NBA Finals. He cracked double digits in points per game four times finishing his career scoring 8.2 per game.
14. Reggie Bullock
I barely remember that Reggie Bullock is in the NBA, much less that he went to the University of North Carolina. As one of those useful and talented, but not necessarily great wings in the league, Bullock has been able to stick around for a few years. He was drafted by the LA Clippers with the 25th overall selection in the 2013 NBA Draft and he stuck with them for two seasons until he was traded to the Suns. The very next year he was shipped to the Pistons where he has played the last two years. At North Carolina Bullock played for three years scoring just under 10 points per game for his career. He was always surrounded by more high profile players like Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller, and Marcus Paige while he was there, so he did not generate the hype of guys like that which meant that despite being an important player there, he was not very memorable.
13. Dave Popson
One North Carolina player who Michael Jordan might even forget played there, despite being his teammate for a year, is Dave Popson. He played for four years with the Tar Heels, coming off the bench. He managed to score ten points per game as a senior but remained low in the pecking order behind his numerous big name teammates. Popson was drafted by the Detroit Pistons in the fourth round of the 1987 NBA Draft but did not make it to the NBA until a few years later, after a stint in France. He hung around the NBA for three seasons, playing a handful of games for the Clippers, Heat, Bucks, and Boston Celtics who he played 19 games for. He finished his career averaging 1.9 points and 1.1 rebounds per game.
12. Steve Bucknall
Another Tar Heel that had a decent career at the University of North Carolina and earned himself a short stint in the NBA who most people probably forgot about at all, much less that he was a Tar Heel is Steve Bucknall. He played all four years with the Heels, although his first two seasons he had a smaller role off the bench. But as a junior and senior he got more minutes and became a more important part of the team, topping out at 13.1 points per game as a senior. Bucknall was born in London and was one of the few British players to make it to a high profile college team and the NBA. After one season with the Lakers where he played in 18 games, he headed back across the pond and played internationally for a few years.
11. George Karl
Someone who many people probably forgot even played basketball in general, much less at the University of North Carolina, is legendary NBA coach, George Karl. With a coaching career that was obviously a lot longer and more exciting than his playing career it is easy to miss out on the fact that he played for three years for the Tar Heels in the early 1970s. Karl averaged around 11 points per game his sophomore and junior years and upped his production as a senior to over 17 points per game. He did end up playing in the pros for the San Antonio Spurs for five seasons before he moved into coaching. During his illustrious career on the bench he coached the Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings, and Milwaukee Bucks, but his best teams were the late 1990s Seatte SuperSonics teams that Karl consistently lead on deep playoff runs including a trip to the NBA Finals in 1996.
10. Eric Montross
One of North Carolina’s stars in the early 1990s whose career was eclipsed by two freshmen who showed up during his senior year and subsequently had much better college and pro careers than him is Eric Montross. He was one of the top players on the team during his four years with the Tar Heels, helping them win the national championship in 1993, but when Rasheed Wallace and Jerry Stackhouse came in as freshman during his senior season, the future superstars quickly became players fans remembered best. Montross had a relatively forgettable NBA career as well after being drafted with the ninth overall pick in the 1994 NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics. He played eight seasons for six teams while averaging less than five points and five rebounds per game for his career.
9. Rick Fox
With three NBA Championships as a player for the Los Angeles Lakers, one could forget that Rick Fox also starred for the Tar Heels for a few years. With Fox’s subsequent foray into Hollywood, one could even forget he played in the NBA for a few years. Despite his more high profile careers, he was a great player for the Tar Heels. His time in Chapel Hill included him playing all four years, leading them to the Final Four in 1991, making first team All-ACC in 1991, and scoring over 12 points per game during his career including his career high of almost 17 points per game as a senior. He was drafted by the Boston Celtics with the 24th overall pick in the 1991 NBA Draft and spent his first six seasons with them before heading across the country to the rival Lakers for his final seven seasons after which he parlayed his fame into an acting career.
8. Mitch Kupchak
Another former Tar Heel who achieved more fame in a non-playing role in the NBA is Mitch Kupchak who until recently was the General Manager for the Los Angeles Lakers. Kupchak played four years in North Carolina, averaging over 13 points per game while he was there including scoring over 17 points per game as a junior and senior. He was the ACC Player of the Year and second team All-American in 1976. Kupchak was the 13th overall pick in the 1976 NBA Draft by the Washington Bullets and played nine years in the league, winning an NBA championship with the Bullets in 1978 and two with the Lakers in 1982 and 1985. After he retired he became and an assistant GM for the Lakers under Jerry West and helped build a few more championship teams in his time in the front office in Los Angeles.
7. Kenny Smith
The main reason people might forget that Kenny Smith played at the University of North Carolina is because career fell between that of all time great Michael Jordan and the highly touted JR Reid and his iconic high top fade hairstyle. Smith was a great player for the Tar Heels but the furthest he ever took them was the Elite Eight. His real fame came when he went to the NBA where he was selected with the sixth overall pick by the Sacramento Kings in the 1987 NBA Draft. He spent ten seasons in the NBA, landing with the Rockets in 1990 where he played the majority of his career and helped them win back to back championships in 1994 and 1995. He is known nowadays for his work as a studio analyst as a member of TNT’s Inside the NBA crew. And if you do forget he played for North Carolina, he will probably remind you that he did if you watch that show enough.
6. Sam Perkins
Known more for his time with the great SuperSonics teams of the mid-1990s when he was over a decade into his NBA career, Perkins was also a member of the legendary 1982 North Carolina national championship team. He was the third best player on the team but since the two best were James Worthy and Michael Jordan, it is easy to forget his important role in their championship season. Through his four years in Chapel Hill, Perkins averaged almost 16 points and over eight rebounds per game. He was a sophomore when they won it in 1982 and he earned second team All-American honors. He was a consensus first team All-American in 1983 and 1984. Perkins was selected by the Dallas Mavericks with the fourth overall pick in the 1984 NBA Draft. Over six years with the Mavs he averaged over 14 points per game. He then went to the Lakers for three seasons before spending six years with the Sonics and then his final three with the Pacers.
5. Jeff Lebo
Although he was a four year player at the University of North Carolina, Jeff Lebo is somewhat forgettable because he was only a four game player in the NBA. Playing alongside big names like Kenny Smith and JR Reid, Lebo was not the big star for Carolina, but he did average over 11 points per game for his career, topping out at 13.5 ppg as a sophomore. He also never had a shot at the Final Four, advancing only as far as the Elite Eight in his second and third years. He was not drafted but did make it to the NBA playing where he played his four games for the San Antonio Spurs in 1989. He then began a college coaching career with assistant gigs for the East Tennessee State, Vanderbilt, and South Carolina before getting his first head coaching job at Tennessee Tech. He has also coached Chattanooga and Auburn, and he currently is the head man at East Carolina.
4. Larry Brown
Another great coach whose legendary career completely overshadowed his time as a player was Hall of Famer Larry Brown. Despite his tendency to jump from job to job as a coach, Brown still managed to win an NCAA national championship and an NBA title, which no other coach has ever done. As a player Brown starred for three years at North Carolina, playing for Frank McGuire and then Dean Smith. He did make it to the ABA where he was a three time ABA All-Star, he won the MVP in 1968, and won an ABA Championship in 1969. Soon though, he was into coaching and through five decades he has coached 13 teams, leading eight different teams to the NBA playoffs. He won his national championship with the help of Danny Manning at Kansas in 1988. 16 years later he led the Detroit Pistons to the NBA championship over the Lakers.
3. Danny Green
Whenever anyone thinks about Danny Green, the image that comes to mind is the skinny kid who did not do much of anything his first couple year in the league and then suddenly became a key defensive weapon who could get hot and shower threes from everywhere during the 2013 NBA Finals for the Spurs. But as many forget, Green was a starter for the University of North Carolina when they won the national championship in 2009. He was only the fourth Tar Heel selected in the 2009 NBA Draft when he was taken by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the 46th overall pick. He lasted one season with the Cavs before he was waived. The Spurs picked him up and after spending much of his second year in the D-League he finally broke out in his third season becoming the great shooter and defender who helped the Spurs almost win the title in 2013, and win the title in 2014.
2. Joe Wolf
Another solid player for the University of North Carolina who sometimes went unnoticed behind his more high-profile teammates during his four years with the Tar Heels was Joe Wolf. When you play with the likes of Michael Jordan, JR Reid, Kenny Smith, Brad Daugherty, and Sam Perkins during your career you are probably never going to be one of the top options for the team, much less one of the players fans remember. Nevertheless Wolf still averaged almost ten points and more than five rebounds per game while at UNC and even made first team All-ACC as a senior. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers with the 13th overall pick in the 1987 NBA Draft and played for over a decade with seven different teams.
1. Brad Daugherty
Brad Daugherty is remembered most as a part of the great Cleveland Cavaliers teams of the late 1980s and early 1990s whose playoffs hopes were continually extinguished by Michael Jordan. The Cavs selected Daugherty with the first overall pick in the 1986 NBA Draft. They also managed to acquire Mark Price, Ron Harper, and Hot Rod Williams that year, putting together one of the best young lineups in the NBA. Daugherty played eight years in Cleveland retiring with the all time scoring and rebounding records for the Cavaliers that have since been broken by LeBron James (points) and Žydrūnas Ilgauskas (boards). Daugherty was one of the best big men to ever play for the Tar Heels, being named first team All-ACC twice, earning second team All-American honors in 1986, and averaging over 20 points and seven rebounds per contest as a senior. With Michael Jordan around for his first two seasons and Kenny Smith for his remaining years, Daugherty was not the big star while he was there. His lack of a Final Four appearance also means he never had a chance to establish a truly memorable moment for himself in Carolina Blue.
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