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.)
NC State’s All-Time NFL Passing Leaders Headed into 2022 Season
NC State has had 7 former Quarterbacks go on to start games in the NFL. Heading into the 2022 NFL season, Russell Wilson and Jacoby Brissett are the only two former Wolfpackers currently on NFL rosters.
Below is a breakdown of where they rank in career statistical categories as Week 1 approaches.
(Realistically, the only movement I see possibly happening on the below rankings would be Brissett possibly passing Glennon in career touchdown passes, moving into 5th. With Deshaun Watson suspended for a minimum of 6 games, Brissett will start for the Browns.)
Career Passing Yards
- Philip Rivers – 63,440
- Russell Wilson – 37,059
- Roman Gabriel – 29,444
- Erik Kramer – 15,337
- Jacoby Brissett – 7,742
- Mike Glennon – 7,025
- Ryan Finley – 638
Career Passing Touchdowns
- Philip Rivers – 421
- Russell Wilson – 292
- Roman Gabriel – 201
- Erik Kramer – 92
- Mike Glennon – 47
- Jacoby Brissett – 36
- Ryan Finley – 3
- Philip Rivers – 5,277
- Russell Wilson – 3,079
- Roman Gabriel – 2,366
- Erik Kramer – 1,317
- Jacoby Brissett – 727
- Mike Glennon – 689
- Ryan Finley – 58
WATCH: NC State Upsets UCLA in 1974 NCAA Tourney
We’re telling you right now…get some footage and alumni ready for this Holiday Bowl. Bill Walton is a wild dude and based on the west coast. We need Thompson awkwardly laughing as Walton eats a cupcake, candle and all, while big ol’ Burleson is talking about snapping the Bruins’ championship streak.
You also have to admit, broadcast highlights were way cooler back in the day. Jazz music? Nice tinted coloring? Just brilliant use of half speed replays? Put it in our veins.
A look back at NC State great Tommy Burleson, on his birthday
This article was written by Kevin E. Spencer from the North Carolina Expatriates Facebook page. He was kind enough to share it with us in hopes to have it reach NC State fans everywhere.
Tommy Loren Burleson is born ON THIS DAY in Crossnore (population: 192) deep in the North Carolina mountains of Avery County (elevation: 3,392 ft). He will eventually grow to stand well over seven feet tall, and like most young men who rise to that height, especially in North Carolina, he plays basketball.
Tall and thin, (he’s called the “Newland Needle”) but with a knack for getting between a shooter and the basket, and a wingspan that allows him to corral rebounds and own the boards, he leads his Avery County High Vikings to an 85-8 record in his high school career.
However, nearly lost now in the bright light of Burleson’s NC State years (more about those in a moment) are the memories of Burleson and the Avery High Vikings white-hot rivalry with the Marion High Rippers.
Between 1968 and 1970, the two high schools met seven times, playing for Northwestern 3A Conference titles and facing off in the state playoffs. Those games were all sell-outs, and in the crowd for nearly every game sat Dean Smith, Norm Sloan, Bucky Waters, Lefty Driesell, Jack McCloskey, and Bill Gibson, not to mention other major college coaches, with tall Tommy being the center of attention.
On the fifth game of the series, after Burleson and Avery had won the first four straight, Marion Coach Ken Brackett decided to try something different. Avery was anchored by its 2-3 zone defense, with Tommy, of course, clogging up the middle. In practice the week before the game, Brackett has his offense go against defenders with tennis rackets to simulate Burleson’s wingspan. But more than that, he wants to force Burleson and the Vikings out of their impenetrable zone.
The result is a game still talked about by those who were there to see it. It has gone down as the “Freeze Game.” Among the other more unusual aspects of this game: both teams actually shoot 100% from the floor. The catch is, there aren’t that many shots taken.
Marion decides going in that they are going to hold the ball and force Avery out of their zone. Except Burleson and Avery refuse to come out. The result is that Marion keeps the ball down to the final seconds of each quarter, and shoots. The score is 8-8 at the half.
As the game progresses in the same manner in the second half, both teams began to chip and snipe each other. Finally, at just under 2 minutes to go, Burleson hits two free throws to put Avery ahead 12-10. Marion calls timeout, and as Marion’s Archie McIntosh and Avery’s Tom Burleson cross paths…something happens.
What exactly happens depends on which team is doing the talking. McIntosh says Burleson elbows him in the face, Burleson says McIntosh elbows him below the waist. Whichever is right, both boys are instantly flailing away, and both are ejected.
With Burleson out of the game, the Vikings abandon their 2-3 zone, and in the last two minutes, lose 16-13.
Finally breaking the stranglehold Burleson and Avery had on the series, Marion will go on to win the next two games as well. After Burleson and his core of teammates graduates, Marion will also win the eighth game of the series by a comfortable margin.
After that match, McDowell County consolidates, and Marion combines with other area high schools to become McDowell High. The classic Avery-Marion series is over, and the seven-game rivalry goes down in North Carolina High School Basketball history.
How much of that high school rivalry helped fuel the competitive fire that burned in Burleson’s heart in college only he knows, but flame it did…bright and white-hot. Tommy Burleson will go on to play center for Coach Norm Sloan and the NC State Wolfpack.
Perhaps the most under-appreciated player in ACC history, Burleson’s name is sometimes lost among Michael Jordan, David Thompson, James Worthy, Bobby Jones, Cornbread Maxwell, Phil Ford, Brad Daugherty, Nate McMillan, Walter Davis, and a hundred other North Carolina-born players. But Burleson’s contribution to State’s 1974 National Championship cannot be underestimated.
It was Burleson’s tremendous wingspan clearing out underneath the basket that allowed Monte Towe and David Thompson to work their magic, a fact shown indisputably in 1975 after Burleson graduated, and State tried to repeat their National Championship without him.
In two memorable games in the spring of 1974, he showed the world just who he really was. Tommy Burleson played his heart out against Maryland’s Len Elmore and Tom McMillen in the greatest college basketball game ever: the 1974 ACC Championship game between NC State and Maryland.
Three weeks later, in Greensboro at the Final Four, NC State went up against UCLA, winner of the last seven National Championships. UCLA was led by its center, the red-headed and opinionated Bill Walton. The previous November UCLA had handed Burleson and the Pack their only loss in two years. Playing in just their third game of the season, despite having been undefeated the year before, State came out shaky and lost by nearly 20 points. Based on that game, Walton wasn’t particularly worried about NC State….he gets off the jet in Greensboro in sandals, the epitome of Southern California rebellious cool.
Most of us know the details of that epic two-overtime game.
If you were in North Carolina, you almost certainly saw it. State down in regulation and battling back, and then down 74-67 with 3:27 left in the second overtime and again fighting back. Then the final victory as the clock ticked to zero. And if you were fortunate enough to see that game, you know Big Tommy Burleson took Bill Walton to school that day. Walton got his game handed to him.
While the statistics say they played almost to a draw, in reality, Tommy Burleson wrested the National Championship right out of Bill Walton’s hands. Tommy out-played Walton on both ends of the court. Walton may have been Southern California cool…but Tommy was a red and white-hot North Carolina State fire. Burleson dominated Walton that day, despite what Bill Walton might say today.
Burleson was never silky smooth with the basketball. I once saw him corral a defensive rebound, and not immediately seeing an outlet pass available, decide to bring the ball up himself. It wasn’t pretty…each dribble was head high to most of the other players, but he got it over the halfcourt line and into Monte Towe’s hands. At which point Norm Sloan calls timeout, brings Tommy over, puts a friendly arm around his shoulder, and tells him NEVER to do that again.
– member of the Western North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.
After basketball, Tommy returns to the mountains of Avery County. He and his wife Denise have three sons, Robert, David, and Quentin. Tommy has been the Director of Inspections and Planning for Avery County for many years now, as well as a grower and seller of Christmas trees. Deeply involved with his church, he spends part of each year doing mission work. And for more than 30 years, he has operated the Tommy Burleson Basketball Camp during July. Tommy also remains very involved with NC State…in fact, you can usually find him at most games. Perhaps the ultimate compliment: Tommy Burleson is as good a person as he was a basketball player.
Perhaps the most underrated player in ACC history, Tommy Burleson may not have been silky smooth, but during his time at State, he did what he did underneath the basket better than anybody else in the country…including Bill Walton.
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.)