FLASHBACK: Bartow’s Take: These were among the greatest

Published 11:56 am Thursday, April 3, 2014

By Bartow Houston


First, an admission:  my knowledge of current sports, at just about every level, is not very comprehensive. The days when I really kept up with such have long since passed. Also, I never was particularly interested in professional sports. The college beat and high school sports were what I followed.

Age (mine) and the role that money now plays in athletics has really diminished my enthusiasm for and interest in much of the world of sports. The Olympics is, quite honestly, the only sporting endeavor that still really holds my interest.

In my memory, I fondly look back upon the more innocent time in sports, and, especially, college basketball.  Which – finally – leads me to what I intended to write about in the first place:  who were the best North Carolina college hoopsters of yesteryear?

Such a topic most certainly will engender far more interest among those of us who recall such yesteryears.  Some more “yester” than others.

Among – but certainly not limited to – those players who really made their marks were NC State’s Dick Dickey, Sammy Ranzino, Ronnie Shavlik and David Thompson.

At Carolina, the list of remarkable and memorable players is very long.  Very.  An “all-time greatest” list could probably be picked just from Tar Heel rosters through the years.

Knowing some very good ones will be left out, here are a few – just a few, mind you – of UNC greats:  Lennie Rosenbluth, Charlie Scott, Phil Ford, James Worthy and Michael Jordan.

Wake Forest has had some really good ones, but the Demon Deacons simply don’t garner the same media attention that the other basketball powers in the state do.  So, here are just a few names from the black and gold:  Dickie Hemric, Tim Duncan and, had he not opted for the NBA early, Chris Paul would probably be in the mix.

It’s fair to say that Wake Forest has done more, through the years, with less abundant talent than their sister Big Four Rivals.

And now Duke.  The Blue Devils.  I must confess I’ve been a Duke fan almost forever.  The first college game I ever saw was Duke versus West Virginia in the semi-finals of the Southern Conference tournament.  That’s right … the Southern Conference.  It was 1951, two years away from the creation of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

It was in that game that I saw the great Dick Groat play.  He scored 31 points, converting me to a Duke fan from then on.  And this was well before there was a Coach K.

So let me lead off with Dick Groat.  He was a consensus All-American and won National Player of the Year honors.  Other “Dookies” include Art Heyman, Mike Gminski, Johnny Dawkins, Christian Laettner and J.J. Reddick.

Far more outstanding players have been left out than have been listed.  You most likely could add some deserving names here.  A lot.

Then, let’s come up with the very best to ever play college ball in the Old North State.  This one is a slam-dunk (although at the time such was not allowed).  It has to be … it is … David Thompson.  I won’t back down on this choice.

And finally – drum roll, please – the best college player – ever – with North Carolina roots . . . “Pistol” Pete Maravich!  He was an incomparable scorer and passer. LSU’s gain was our loss.

So, there you have it.

Oh.  Wouldn’t it have been nice if Dominique had gone to an in-state school?

Note – Our writer is a former high school basketball coach, which, he says, doesn’t really mean “doodley squat.”

Bartow Houston is a former sport editor and current columnist at The Washington Daily News. He can be contacted by email at sports@thewashingtondailynews.com.