College Sports

A king at Duke, prince in the ACC

Duke's J.J. Redick almost certainly will become the leading men's scorer in ACC history today in a game at Temple.

But are points alone enough to place the senior guard among the league's best players ever?

After all, former Virginia guard Buzzy Wilkinson averaged 28.6 points for his career and Butch Zatezalo, a guard at Clemson in the late 1960s, had a career average of 23.5 points. You'll rarely see those two mentioned among the ACC's all-time best.

Wilkinson and Zatezalo also played on some very bad teams, and that's the big difference. Not only has Redick piled up points, he has done it on some of the country's best teams throughout his career. That's why room has to be made for Redick near the top of the all-time ACC best-players list.

Redick's final resting place on the league's best list will be determined by how the Blue Devils fare during the next several weeks. A national championship ring always enhances a player's legacy, and if Redick carries Duke to an NCAA title, he deserves consideration as the ACC's best guard ever.

But with or without an NCAA title, Redick has to rank among the top five ACC guards.

Here's my list:

Guards

1. PHIL FORD (NORTH CAROLINA, 1975-78): At only 6-foot-2 or so, Ford routinely dominated games in the era before the shot clock. He didn't have great jumping ability -- far from it. But Ford still rates as the quickest and best ball-handler in ACC history.

Less remembered is the fact he was a major scorer, averaging 18.6 points during his 123-game career.

2. BOBBY HURLEY (DUKE, 1990-93): His 1,076 career assists and two national championship rings underscore Hurley's importance to the Duke dynasty in the early 1990s. For the majority of his career, scoring wasn't a priority. Hurley wound up with a fairly modest 12.4 average over 140 games.

3. MICHAEL JORDAN (NORTH CAROLINA, 1982-84): A wing guard on teams with a lot of inside size, Jordan didn't dominate games the way he did in the NBA, but he did average 19.6 in 1984 to lead the league. And of course, his game-winning shot in the 1982 NCAA title game ranks among the most memorable in ACC history.

4. J.J. REDICK (DUKE, 2003-06): Barring a sweeping slump during the next few weeks, Redick will be remembered as the best pure shooter in the league's history.

5. JOHNNY DAWKINS (DUKE, 1983-86): Mike Krzyzewski's first big scorer, Dawkins averaged 19.2 points over 133 games.

Regardless of how the guards stack up, there's little debate that the two best players in ACC history were in the frontcourt: David Thompson of N.C. State and Christian Laettner of Duke. Here's how I see the league's all-time best frontcourt players:

Frontcourt

1. DAVID THOMPSON (N.C. STATE, 1973-75): The best player in ACC history, Thompson averaged 26.8 points before freshman eligibility, 3-point field goals and legalized dunking.

In his three varsity seasons, Thompson played on teams that went 79-7 overall and 32-4 in ACC regular-season play. His record in the conference tournament was 6-1.

2. CHRISTIAN LAETTNER (DUKE, 1989-92): No one in league history took -- or made -- more big shots.

Although never an overwhelming scorer in the Redick mold, Laettner did average 16.6 points over 148 games. The ultimate warrior, Laettner set a competitive postseason tone that still inspires Duke players.

3. LENNIE ROSENBLUTH (NORTH CAROLINA, 1955-57): The patriarch of ACC superstars, Rosenbluth's 1957 season did as much to create the explosion of regional interest in ACC basketball as anything else.

At 6-5, he was unstoppable that season and averaged 26.9 points in his three-year varsity career.

4. SHANE BATTIER (DUKE, 1998-01): In the 2000-01 season, Battier was the league's best clutch offensive player, best defensive player, best leader and among the best rebounders.

5. TIM DUNCAN (WAKE FOREST, 1994-97): He never got to play in a Final Four, but Duncan was the country's best player during his final two college seasons. The league has never had a better defender over the course of four seasons.

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