After arriving at NC State in 1946, Everett Case wasted no time, scooping up five quick Southern Conference Championships. He was one of the proponets of the formation of the ACC and his extreme success in the Southern Conference helped open people’s eyes that a better brand of basketball was needed. The Pack won the first ACC Championship in 1954 (which was actually the 1st of a three-peat), with Case at the helm. Case’s ’54 squad was led by 1st Team All-ACC Senior Mel Thompson. He had a productive Senior campaign averaging 18.6 points per contest, which ranked him 4th in the ACC. The Pack also had a studded Sophomore class that was headlined by Guard Vic Molodet and Center Ronnie Shavlik. Molodet was a 5’11″ guard out of Chicago who entertained the crowds with his ballhandling and flashy style of play. His Sophomore campaign was so impressive that he earned 2nd Team All-ACC honors. Ronnie Shavlik was a 6’8″ Center out of Denver and also made noise within the ACC as a Sophomore, ranking 2nd in the ACC in rebounding, pulling down 13.4 boards a game.
The ACC was in its elementary stages and in 1954 they had yet to establish a system where every team played an equal amount of ACC games. The ACC schedule for each team was sporadic to say the least. One team played a mere 5 ACC games and another played 12. The Pack played 8 ACC games going 5-3, ranking them 4th in the league. After going 21-7 during the regular season the Pack didn’t finish the regular season ranked, even though they were in and out of the rankings through out the year. They entered the inaugural ACC Tournament as the #4 seed. The Pack might have held a slight advantage with the tournament being held in the sacred Reynolds Colliseum. I think all of us would covet the cost of admission to the 1st ACC tourney. You could buy tickets for the entire tournament for only $10. It must have been a beautiful thing to see the Wolfpack take down each member of the Tobacco Road crew.
39,200 people attended the 1954 ACC tournament. The Pack began their destruction of the Tobacco Road crew by handling #5 seed UNC 52-51 in the Quarterfinals. The Duke Blue Devils were the next victims, falling to the boys in Red & White 79-75 in the Semifinals. The State fans probably had their nerves shot by the end of the tournament, as none of the wins came in an easy manner. NC State went on to claim the ACC Title by defeating the Wake Forest Demon Deacons 82-80 in Overtime. Mel Thompson and Ronnie Shavlik were selected to the All-Tournament First Team and Herb Appelbaum was selected to the Second Team.
The ACC Tournament held a lot more weight back then, because the winner was the only team to represent the ACC in the NCAA Tournament. The Pack went on to win two out of their three games, as they represented the ACC in the NCAA Tournament. The Pack was victorious in the opening round of the tourney, defeating George Washington 75-73. After loosing to La Salle in the Second Round 81-88, they went on to defeat Cornell 65-54 in the 3rd place Regional game. The Pack could hold their head high knowing that they lost to the team that went on to win the National Championship in La Salle.
State finished the season with a record of 26-7 and finished the season 10th in the AP poll and 14th in the Coaches Poll. Everett Case’s incredible run in the inaugural ACC tourney earned him the Coach of the Year award in the ACC, and this would become one of many in his 18 year career at NC State.
JERSEYS IN THE RAFTERS: Vic Molodet: #73
Everett Case set the standard for the ACC, leading NC State to the first 3 conference championships (54-56). Ronnie Shavlik was arguably the most decorated player from this dynasty, but everyone knows that a great ‘big man’ is most often accompanied by a point guard that can create and get them the ball in optimal scoring situations. Some tandems are not mentioned as individual players, rather they are always remembered as a pair. For instance, rarely do you hear the name Karl Malone mentioned without the name John Stockton followed right behind it. In the case of Ronnie Shavlik, it was hard to think of the All-American center without thinking about All-American point guard Vic Molodet.
Vic Molodet was a 5’11″ point guard from East Chicago, Indiana. Molodet was the coach on the court that led the Wolfpack to three-straight ACC Championships, beginning with the 1st ever ACC Tournament in 1954. Vic played the game with a sense of flare that electrified the crowds in the early years of Reynolds Coliseum. While Shavlik might have been the focal point of the Wolfpack offense, Molodet didn’t go unnoticed by those who voted for post-season honors. Molodet earned All-ACC honors in all three of his varsity seasons, claiming 2nd team honors 1954 and 1955 and 1st team honors in 1956. Vic would go on to play one of his best performances in the ACC championship game his senior season, when he scored 32 points, taking home the tournament MVP award.
Molodet might have had a responsibility of getting Shavlik the ball in the post, but this didn’t stop the crafty point guard from putting the ball in the hoop. His career scoring average of 14.9 ranks 12th in school history, and his 1,405 career points rank 22nd, and a high percentage of those points came from the charity stripe.
In 1956, Molodet helped lead NC State to a #2 rank nationally, though they didn’t finish the year there.
After earning 1st Team All-American honors as a senior, Molodet went on to be drafted by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the the 1956 NBA draft.
1954 – 13.8pts
1955 – 13.5pts
1956 – 18.2pts
2nd Team – 1954 and 1955
1st Team – 1956
All-ACC Tournament Team
2nd Team – 1955
1st Team – 1956 (MVP)
All-Dixie Classic Team
1954 and 1955
1st Team All-American (Converse) – 1956
Molodet’s #73 jersey was honored and lifted to the rafters on February 24th, 1999.
(Molodet’s #73 jersey is honored, but not retired. The only retired jersey is David Thompson’s #44.)
Jerseys in the Rafters: Lou Pucillo: #78
We’ve heard the story time and time again of Michael Jordan being cut from his JV team back in high school. It’s a story that is retold so often because, in hindsight, the fact seems ironic and absolutely ridiculous. While former NC State guard Lou Pucillo didn’t go on to become the greatest basketball player in the history of the game, his story is very similar to Jordan’s, and quite possibly even more absurd.
What are the odds that a player that didn’t make his high school team until his senior season, playing minimal minutes that season, would end up earning ACC Player of the Year honors, along with All-American honors? Welcome to the crazy story of Lou Pucillo.
Lou Pucillo grew up in South Philadelphia and attended Southeast Catholic. The undersized guard didn’t make his high school team until his senior season, and even then, he barely saw the floor. It is a dream of many kids to grow up and play basketball at the next level, but at this point in Pucillo’s life, his credentials pointed toward only a dream, and not actuality. Pucillo was unwilling to quit dreaming, and went on to Temple Prep School, where he averaged roughly 25 points a game, gaining the attention of the NC State coaching staff.
When Everett Case brought Pucillo into the fold, he was the smallest player ever recruited by Case, standing 5’9″, and weighing in at 157 pounds. When a guard is undersized, it is vitally important that they have a great set of ball handling skills and speed, which Pucillo possessed. Sportswriter’s dubbed Pucillo the “Bob Cousy of the collegians.” Pucillo dribbled his way into the NC State record books, earning First Team All-ACC honors twice (1 of 10 players in school history to accomplish this), and First Team All-ACC Tournamnet twice as well.
Pucillo’s senior campaign was one that was clad with accolades. After leading the Wolfpack to their 4th ACC championship, he became one of 5 players in school history to win the ACC Player of the Year award (14.6 ppg). He also became one of only 8 players in NC State history to earn the MVP award for the ACC Tournament. As a cherry on top, Pucillo earned 2nd Team All-American honors in his senior season.
After graduating from NC State, the dream of the NBA never came to fruition, but he did play professionally for the Wichita Vickers in National Industrial League and later played for Sunbury in the Eastern Professional League. When he decided to hang up the jersey and move on, he found himself back in Raleigh, coaching the Freshman team at NC State for three seasons, before stepping out and forming his own private business in the Raleigh area.
It’s rare that the kid that grows up playing basketball on the playground because he didn’t make the school team, see’s his dreams come true. Yet every once in awhile a guy like Lou Pucillo comes along and defies all the odds.
Pucillo’s jersey was honored and lifted to the rafters on February 24th, 1999.
(Pucillo’s #78 jersey is honored, but not retired. The only retired jersey is David Thompson’s #44.)
Jerseys In The Rafters: John Richter: #24
Legendary Wolfpack coach Everett Case reeled in a legendary recruiting class in 1956 when he brought in two players from Philadelphia, who would eventually go on to earn All-American honors, win an ACC title and have their jerseys permanently honored in the rafters. Lou Pucillo and John Richter would go on to be one of the most dynamic duo’s in NC State history. There was nearly 12 inches separating Pucillo and Richter in height (Richter was 6’8″). Pucillo possessed the ball handling skills and he made a habit of feeding the ball to John Richter in the post.
Richter knew how to use his height to his advantage, not only becoming one of the best rebounders in NC State history, but in ACC history as well. He led NC State in rebounding all three varsity seasons, averaging double-digit rebounds in all three seasons (’57 – 12.7, ’58 – 10.9, ’59 – 14.2). Richter’s 936 career rebounds rank 6th all-time in NC State history. The big guy’s career average of 12.7 rebounds per game ranks 3rd in school history and 9th in ACC history.
John was also the 1st Wolfpack player to ever lead the ACC in scoring, when he posted a season average of 17.0 points per game in the 1958-59 season. His career scoring average of 15.0 points per game ranks 11th in school history. Richter not only possessed the ability to score, but he also was efficient in doing so, leading the ACC in Field Goal Percentage in 1957, connecting on 51.9% that season.
He led the team in scoring and field goal percentage twice.
Richter’s monstrous senior campaign didn’t go unnoticed. After averaging a double-double in his last season (17.0 points and 14.2 rebounds), and winning an ACC title, the voters smiled on the big man from Philly. Richter earned 1st Team All-ACC, 1st Team All-ACC Tournament, and 1st Team All-American honors in his final season. This padded his accolade resume that already contained two 2nd Team All-ACC selections (’57 and ’58) and a Dixie Classic MVP award in 1958.
John Richter, one of the best post players to ever play at NC State, went on to be a 1st round draft pick by the Boston Celtics in the 1959 NBA draft.
Richter’s jersey was honored and lifted to the rafters on February 24th, 1999.
(Richter’s #24 jersey is honored, but not retired. The only retired jersey is David Thompson’s #44.)
David Thompson is one of only 9 players in history to win Naismith Award and make Hall of Fame
Did you know that Packinsider.com has a whole section dedicated to the history of NC State athletics? If you haven’t checked it out, go ahead and do that when you get some free time we like to think it’s pretty interesting stuff.
Over the next few months, we are going to be hitting you with nuggets of NC State history that you may not know about. Here is one that we just came across…
Did you know that NC State’s David Thompson is one of only 9 Naismith Award winners to make the Basketball Hall of Fame?
Naismith Award + @Hoophall:
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) October 5, 2018
That list is like the who’s who of basketball greats.
David Thompson was awarded the Naismith at the end of his 1974-75 season with NC State. He helped lead the Wolfpack to their first national championship in 1974. Thompson was known as “Skywalker” for his incredible vertical leap. Thompson was the first overall draft pick to the Atlanta Hawks in 1975 but elected to play for the Denver Nuggets in the ABA. He continued to play with the Nuggets after the ABA-NBA merger before being traded to the Seattle Supersonics. Thompson was twice named to the All-NBA team and was selected to four All-Star games. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996. (NCAA)
But just think about that. Of all the college basketball greats who won the ‘player of the year’ award, only 9 of those guys went on to make the Hall of Fame. It goes to show you that NCAA basketball and NBA basketball are really two different games, and if you’re great at one level, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be great at the other. Congrats to DT for being one of the few that was.