Former N.C. State basketball player Charles Shackleford was found dead on Friday in Kinston.
The Kinston police discovered Shackleford, 50, at his home address on Rouse Road Friday morning, according to department spokesman Woody Spencer.
How Shackleford died has not yet been determined, Spencer said, and the Kinston police are investigating.
Shackleford was a controversial figure at N.C. State, known for his immense talent but also his off-court troubles. He helped N.C. State win an ACC title in 1987 – the program’s last conference title – but was at the center of the program-wide turmoil that ultimately led to former coach Jim Valvano’s ouster in 1990.
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Shackleford, an All-ACC forward in 1988, spent six seasons in the NBA and was to Wolfpack fans the original “Shack.”
“He was a big kid,” said Chris Corchiani, Shackleford’s teammate at N.C. State during the 1987-88 season. “He never took anything too seriously and he loved having a good time and laughing. He was the kind of guy you wanted on your team.”
His fun-loving personality and athletic talent were only part of the reason the Kinston native became well-known at N.C. State. After an ACC tournament win over Clemson in 1988, Shackleford carved his own spot in malaprop lore when he confused the words “amphibious” and “ambidextrous.”
Shackleford had 26 points and seven rebounds in the 77-72 tournament win but all most Triangle fans remember is what he said after the game.
“I can shoot with both hands,” Shackleford said, according to The News & Observer archives from 1988. “I’m amphibious.”
Shackleford led the ACC in rebounding (9.6 per game) as a junior during the 1987-88 season and he averaged 16.7 points per game. He was voted first-team all-conference. A talented scorer and rebounder, the long and lean (6-10, 225 pounds) Shackleford had the ability to dominate but also disappear.
“He was one of the most talented big men ever to play at N.C. State,” Corchiani said. “You couldn’t guard him. His problem was he didn’t want to bring it every night. He wanted to play against the big teams and when the lights were on but not every time out.”
Shackleford decided to leave N.C. State after his junior season and was taken in the second round of the 1988 NBA draft by the New Jersey Nets. He had the best of his six NBA seasons in his second season with the Nets when he averaged 8.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in 70 games.
Shackleford also played for the Philadelphia 76ers, Minnesota Timberwolves and Chicago Bulls during his NBA career, which ended in the 1998-99 season. He also played professionally in Italy, Turkey and Greece.
Shackleford had his share of legal issues during and after his playing career. He was at the center of an SBI investigation into gambling and point-shaving allegations at N.C. State during the 1987-88 season. He was never charged with any legal wrongdoing, but in 1990 Shackleford admitted he accepted more than $60,000 from two men during his final two years at N.C. State. He said one payment had been from a sports agent and the other was a loan from Robert Kramer, a New Jersey businessman. N.C. State had to repay more than $365,000 to the NCAA from its payout from participating in the NCAA tournament with Shackleford in 1987 and ’88.
It was amid the point-shaving allegations in 1990 that Valvano and N.C. State reached a settlement to end his 10-year tenure as the coach.
In 2000, Shackleford testified against former Carolina Panther Rae Carruth, who was on trial for masterminding the ambush, shooting and murder of his pregnant girlfriend, Cherica Adams.
Shackleford had other legal issues after his pro career was over. During a traffic stop in Johnston County in January 2006 by a state trooper, Shackleford was accused of carrying a concealed weapon, misdemeanor possession of marijuana and possession of cocaine, according to The Associated Press.
In January 2010, Shackleford was at the wheel of a car belonging to former NBA player Jayson Williams that rear-ended another car in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The Newark (N.J.) Star Ledger reported on Feb. 12, 2010, that Shackleford initially told law enforcement officers he was Williams, a teammate while the two played for the Nets. Shackleford then faced charges for driving under suspension and hindering/resisting arrest by providing false information.
Seven months later, Shackleford was arrested in Kinston, accused of selling prescription drugs to an undercover deputy during a sting operation. He reportedly had no assets left from his time playing in the NBA, and a court-appointed attorney was assigned to him. Those charges were dismissed, according to court reports, for lack of evidence.
Teresa Leonard, David Raynor and Anne Blythe contributed to this report.
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio