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: 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: 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.
ANALYSIS: NC State’s Greatest Running Backs of All-Time
With the 2018 football season right around the corner, it’s time for me to help you catch up on your NC State history before the Wolfpack hits the field. In this piece I will be breaking down the best running backs in school history. Future breakdowns by position will be coming in the near future.
The below rankings are my own. In looking at all of the data supplied below (collegiate achievements only), these were my conclusions.
1) Ted Brown – 1975-78 – It’s stressful creating Top-5 lists, but it’s a relief when the #1 spot is a no-brainer. Ted Brown is the best running back in NC State history. It’s not even close. He graduated in 1978 as the all-time rusher in ACC history, and he still sits on the throne. He was the all-time leader in rushing touchdowns in conference history until 2005. Brown is the only player ever in the ACC to earn 1st Team All-Conference 4 times. He is the career leader in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, and total touchdowns at NC State.
2) Dick Christy – 1955-57 – In 1957, Christy was the ACC Player of the Year (1 of 2 running backs in school history to do so), and earned 1st Team All-American (1 of 2 running backs in school history to do so) and 1st Team All-ACC Honors. He also earned 2nd Team All-ACC in 1955. Christy scored all 29 of NC State’s points in the last game of the 1957 season against South Carolina, defeating the Gamecokcs to earn the first ACC Championship in school history. He left NC State holding 14 NC State records and 4 ACC records.
3) Willie Burden – 1971-73 – Burden won the ACC Player of the Year award in 1973 (1 of 2 running backs in school history to do so) after a monster season. He became the first running back in NC State history to rush for over 1,000 yards, leading the ACC in rushing (1,014) in 1973. Burden is one of only five players in NC State history to lead the ACC in rushing in a single season. What makes this feat more impressive is that he did this while sharing the backfield with the “Stallions”, which consisted of fullback Stan Fritts, and running backs Roland Hooks and Charley Young. For context, Fritts and Hooks both almost rushed for 700 yards in 1973. Burden was nearly impossible to bring down in ’73, averaging 6.8 yards per carry (2nd highest season average in NC State history). NC State won the ACC Championship in 1973, and Burden was a huge reason why. Burden was a 1st Team All-ACC selection in 1972 & 73.
4) Joe McIntosh – 1981-84 – McIntosh ranks 2nd all-time at NC State in career rushing yards (3,642). He’s the only other player besides Ted Brown to rush for over 1,000 twice (1981 – 1,190 & 1983 – 1,081). McIntosh earned 1st Team All-ACC honors twice, and was the ACC Freshman of the Year in 1981 after leading the ACC in rushing (1,190).
5) Stan Fritts 1972-74 – While not a halfback, Fritts was a fullback, and by definition, a fullback is a running back. Fritts always shared the backfield. In 1972 and 1973, he shared it with Willie Burden and Charley Young. In 1974, it was Roland Hooks. Despite that, Fritts ranks 8th all-time in career rushing yards (2,542), and 2nd all-time in career rushing touchdowns (41). Fritts had monster season in 1974, leading the ACC in rushing (1,169), and earning 2nd Team All-American honors (AP). He also earned 1st Team All-ACC honors in 1972 and 1974.
Matthew Dayes – 2013-16 – While Dayes never received the accolades he deserved, there is no denying his body of work. He ranks 4th all-time in career rushing yards (2,856). Dayes deserves to be in the conversation about the Top-5 running backs in NC State history, and one of the main reasons was his ability to get in the end zone. His 34 career rushing touchdowns and 40 total touchdowns both rank 3rd in school history. Dayes rushed for over 100 yards 13 times, which ranks 4th.
Anthony Barbour – 1988-92 – In 1992, Barbour rushed for 1,204 yards, which is the most rushing yards in a single season at NC State by anyone not named Ted Brown. Barbour is the only player in school history to average over 6 yards per carry in consecutive seasons (1991 – 6.2 & 1992 – 6.1), and his career average of 5.43 ranks 2nd in school history. He earned 1st Team All-ACC honors in 1992. In my opinion, Barbour is probably deserving of being ranked as 1 of the Top-5 running backs in NC State history. The only reason he isn’t is that he didn’t get the carries needed. He only played in 11 total games in his first two seasons. Barbour ranks 6th all-time in carer rushing yards, but only had 474 career rushing attempts. That’s 175 less than Ray Robinson who ranks 5th all-time in career rushing yards.
Tremayne Stephens – 1994-97 – In my opinion, Stephens is extremely underrated. Stephens ranks 3rd all-time in career rushing yards (3,553) and 5th in yards per carry (5.225). He led the ACC in rushing in 1997, racking up 1,142 yards (1 of only 5 players in school history to lead the ACC in rushing). Stephens earned 1st Team All-ACC honors in 1997 and 2nd Team in 1994.
NC State All-American Running Backs
Ted Brown – Consensus 1st Team – 1978
Stan Fritts – 2nd Team (AP) – 1974
Dick Christy- 1st Team (AP & UPI)
All-ACC NC State Running Backs
Nyheim Hines – 2017
T.A. McLendon – 2002
Tremayne Stephens – 1997
Anthony Barbour – 1992
Joe McIntosh – 1981 & 1983
Ted Brown – 1975-78
Stan Fritts – 1972 & 1974
Willie Burden – 1972-73
Bobby Hall – 1968
Don DeArment – 1966
Shelby Mansfield – 1965
Dick Christy – 1957
Matthew Dayes – 2016
Tremayne Stephens – 1994
Joe Scarpati – 1962-63
Ron Podwika – 1959
Ken Trowbridge – 1958
Dick Hunter – 1957
Dick Christy – 1955
Gary Downs – 1993
NC State Running Backs who won ACC Player of the Year
Willie Burden – 1973
Dick Christy – 1957
NC State Running Backs who won ACC Freahman of the Year
T.A. McLendon – 2002
Ray Robinson – 1998
Joe McIntosh – 1981
Ted Brown – 1975
NC State’s All-Time Rushing Leaders
1. Ted Brown, 1975-78 – 860 carries – 4,602 yards
2. Joe McIntosh, 1981-84 – 729 carries – 3,642 yards
3. Tremayne Stephens, 1994-97 – 680 carries – 3,553 yards
4. Matthew Dayes, 2013-16 – 549 carries – 2,856 yards
5. Ray Robinson, 1998-01 – 649 carries – 2,781 yards
6. Anthony Barbour, 1989-92 – 474 carries – 2,575 yards
7. Shadrach Thornton, 2012-15 – 513 carries – 2,572 yards
8. Stan Fritts, 1972-74 – 534 carries – 2,542 yards
9. Andre Brown, 2005-08 – 523 carries – 2,539 yards
10. Willie Burden, 1971-73 – 491 carries – 2,529 yards
NC State’s All-Time Rushing Touchdown Leaders
1) Ted Brown – 1975-78 – 49
2) Stan Fritts – 1972-74 – 41
3) Matthew Dayes – 2013-16 – 34
4) T.A. McLendon – 2002-04 – 33
5) Ray Robinson – 1998-01 – 30
6) Jaylen Samuels – 2014-17 – 28
7) Tremayne Stephens – 1994-97 – 23
7) Gary Downs – 1990-93 – 23
9) Willie Burden – 1971-73 – 22
9) Andre Brown – 2005-08 – 22
Most 100-yard Rushing Games in NC State History
1. Ted Brown, 1975-78 – 27
2. Joe McIntosh, 1981-84 – 20
3. Tremayne Stephens, 1994-97 – 19
4. Matthew Dayes, 2013-16 – 13
5. Willie Burden, 1971-73 – 12
6. Ray Robinson, 1998-01 – 10
6. T.A. McLendon, 2002-04 – 10
8. Stan Fritts – 1972-74 – 9
8. Shadrach Thornton – 2012-15 – 9
Highest Average Yards Per Carry in NC State History
1. Roland Hooks, 1972-74 – 251 carries – 1,368 yards – 5.45 average
2. Anthony Barbour, 1989-92 – 474 carries – 2,575 yards – 5.432 average
3. Nyheim Hines, 2014-17 – 258 carries – 1,400 yards – 5.426 average
4. Ted Brown, 1975-78 – 860 carries – 4,602 yards – 5.35 average
5. Charley Young, 1971-73 – 317 carries – 1,657 yards – 5.23 average
6. Tremayne Stephens, 1994-97 – 680 carries, 3,553 yards – 5.223 average
7. Dick Christy, 1955-57 – 348 carries – 1,817 yards – 5.221 average
8. Matthew Dayes, 2013-16 – 549 carries – 2,856 yards – 5.202 – average
9. Willie Burden, 1971-73 – 2,529 yards – 5.15 – average
10. Shadrach Thornton, 2012-15 – 513 carries – 2,572 yards – 5.01 average
Players at NC State who have led the ACC in Rushing
NC State Running Backs who have had their Jersey Retired/Honored
Dick Christy – #40
Ted Brown – #23
(both #’s have been retired)
NC State Running Backs who were 1st Round NFL Picks
Ted Brown – 1979 – #16
NC State Running Backs who went to the NFL Pro Bowl
Alex Webster – 1958, 1961
Former NC State Players with Most Rushing Yards & Rushing Touchdowns in NFL