California: Scott Williams
(Note: THI is naming the greatest former UNC football or basketball player from each of the 50 states. The criteria is the player had to live in the state he represents at some point before arriving at UNC. The duration doesn’t matter, he just had to live there. College and pro careers were factored with a lean toward their UNC accomplishments.)
Born and raised in Hacienda Heights, CA, Scott Williams always thought he would play at UCLA while growing up. But when it came time for his recruitment to heat up, the Bruins were struggling a bit a decade after John Wooden’s retirement and North Carolina was the IT program in college basketball.
So, Williams joined Dean Smith’s program, though he did play two games as a Tar Heel in Pauley Pavilion, UCLA’s fabled home arena.
At 6-foot-10 and 230 pounds, Williams arrived at UNC as one of the top incoming big man prospects in the nation. He contributed off the bench as a freshman for a team that went 32-4 but then started his final three seasons in Chapel Hill.
UNC was 109-32 overall including 42-14 in ACC play during Williams’ time as a Tar Heel. He started 94 of the 138 games he played averaging 10.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per contest over his career while shooting 55.1 percent from the floor. As a senior in the 1989-90 season, Williams averaged 14.5 points and 7.3 rebounds per contest for a UNC team that reached at least the Sweet 16 for the 10th consecutive season.
“Scott has always had good work habits,” Dean Smith said before Williams’ senior season. “With his attitude toward practice and games, he has shown immense improvement each year he's been in Chapel Hill. "We think he'll be difficult for opposing teams to box out and should get more offensive rebounds. In addition, he and J.R. both run the court very well and we will take advantage of that ability within the framework of our offense.”
Williams’ career totals at Carolina: 1,508 points; 861 rebounds; 161 blocked shots; 124 assists; 3,055 minutes played.
Williams played parts of 15 seasons in the NBA winning NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls his first three years in the league. He played 12,220 minutes in 746 games scoring 3,825 points and pulling down 3,505 rebounds while blocking 421 shots. Williams averaged 7.6 points a game twice in his career.
But for him, being a Tar Heel always mattered as much as anything. Early during his sophomore year, Williams’ father shot and killed his mother before taking his own life. It was Smith and the UNC program that helped the 19-year-old through the tragedy. The bond was great then and grew even more.
So when the Tar Heels were in Phoenix for the Final Four in 2017, Williams, who lives there with his family now, was asked to be a “Tar Host” for the Heels and people associated with the program. He gladly obliged because UNC was and is family to him.
“The Carolina family, you talk about it as something real and tangible,” Williams told AZFamily.com, a subsidiary of the Phoenix area CBS affiliate. “I remember as a high school player after committing to North Carolina, I was at a Laker game at The Forum. (Former UNC star) James Worthy is an NBA All-Star. He sees me walking through the crowd, and as Pat Riley is drawing up a play, he looks up at me and says, 'hey Tar Heel'!”
Williams has worked in television doing color commentary for NBA games but has recently settled in doing radio for Grand Canyon University’s games.