So, here we are....the eve of the 2017 Final Four games and my all time squad, the North Carolina Tarheels, have made it with three other teams: the Gonzaga Bulldogs, the Oregon Ducks, and the South Carolina Gamecocks (is this real life?......South Carolina in the Final Four?) Anyway, I thought this was the perfect time to talk about my all time favorite Tarheels...by position. I'm only picking guys I remember playing at UNC....I realize that some guys will be left off (Phil Ford, Michael Jordan, etc) but hey....what can you do....Let's get to it!
Point Guard - Ed Cota (honorable mention: Jeff 'Touche' McInnis, Ty Lawson, Kendall Marshall, Marcus Paige)
I actually got a chance to 'hang out'....ok, more like observe (long story for another day) with Cota. And he acts off the court EXACTLY like he does on the court. Super at ease and in control at all times. Cota wasn't the best athlete (he's a member of the Sherman Douglas All Stars.....these are guys that have no visible muscles but for whatever reason are hard to guard and contain), shooter, or even ball handler of his generation...but boy could he pass. More specifically....he could make that entry pass to UNC's bigs. When Cota was running the show at UNC, he had some top shelf running mates in Vince Carter, Antawn Jamison....just to name a few....which is why Cota's assist numbers looked crazy. Cota would usually have a stat line like 10 points, 12 assists, and 6 rebounds. While that looks 'ordinary'....if a college player racks up more than 10 assists during a game....he is probably totally controlling things on the floor and Cota checked all of the checkboxes. Cota never played in the NBA but I'm sure he would have done fine if someone took a chance on him.
Shooting Guard - Wayne Ellington/Danny Green (honorable mention: Donald Williams, Joseph Forte, Jackie Manuel, Hubert Davis)
Ok, so I cheated and picked two but its my post....so there! Seriously, one of the most satisfying things as a fan that follows a certain basketball team is having one or two guys who were cash almost every time they put the ball up. Both Ellington and Green were known for putting up what I like to call 'Soul Crushers' the shots were a team might have been down 10 or so....battle all the way back and get the lead down to about 5 or 6 and the shooter hits the 'Soul Crusher' and puts the game out of reach. They both played on the same team, but if I had to choose, I would probably go with Green because he had hops also and would dunk on you if you gave him space....ask this guy from Duke:
Small Forward - Vince Carter (honorable mention: Jerry Stackhouse, J.P Tokoto, )
Uh....so no explanation needed:
Power Forward: George Lynch/Jawad Williams (honorable mention: Rasheed Wallace, Antawn Jamison, Sean May, Julius Peppers)
As I noted above....these are MY favorite UNC players because if we were to go off of talent....Lynch and Jawad wouldn't even be close to making the cut. But the 1993 squad with Lynch, Donald Williams, Brian Reese, Eric Montross, and Derrick Phelps might be my favorite all time squad. While the face of Carolina basketball for 40+ years was Head Coach Dean Smith, Lynch was a close second on those early nineties teams. Lynch wasn't great at any one thing on the floor but was VERY good at everything at the 4 position. He was undersized but still came up with big rebounds and played excellent defense and I think was one of the ACC leaders in steals.....as a big man. I also got to meet Lynch and get his autograph and he was one of the coolest college players I have met (Christian Laettner was the coolest...but again, that's another story for another day....don't worry my fellow UNC fans....I mean mugged him as much as my 12 year starstruck self would let me!). I'm actually not sure why I like Jawad so much, I think it was how versatile he was at the 4. I think he was a little ahead of his time as a 6'9 Power Forward who was more comfortable on the perimeter than the paint. I saw Jawad play in a summer league game at the Chavis League in Raleigh (St Aug STAND UP!) and while he looks tall on TV....in person....wow....he was SUPER tall....I almost think he was taller than 6'9. But what really struck me about Jawad was how easy he made the game look....almost as if he wasn't trying.
Center: Brendan Haywood (honorable mention: Eric Montross, Kennedy Meeks, John Henson)
I could have went with Kennedy Meeks here mainly because he has come so far during his career, but Haywood is my favorite UNC center. He only had one move....yeah, you know the one.....the post move where he was spin as hard as he could toward the basket...usually elbowing the defender and going up and dunking. I remember him as a young player and he was *best Charles Barkley voice* TURRIBLE! But he started to get more and more coordinated and even gained a mid range jumper. He probably should have been better and had more of a 'Shaq like' influence on the game because he was so much bigger than everyone else....but he played within himself and the system.
Other random UNC players I loved: Shammond Williams, Scott Williams, Dante Calabria, David Noel, Pete Chillcut, Kris Lang, Jackie Manuel, Raymond Felton, Tyler Zeller, Tyler Hansbrough, Luke Maye (yep....already)
Remember to take care of yourselves - John