No. 17: Mitch Kupchak
*Publisher's note: THI is ranking the top 25 basketball players in UNC history, gauging each player solely on their careers as Tar Heels. NBA accomplishments do not factor into these rankings.
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Name: Mitch Kupchak
Jersey #: 21
Honors: First-team All-America 1976; ACC Player of the Year 1976; Two-time, first-team All-ACC 1975 & 1976; Patterson Medal 1976; National Polish American Sports Hall of Fame; UNC jersey is honored at the Smith Center.
Notable Stats: Kupchak is 27th all-time at UNC with 1,611 career points; Averaged 13.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game for his UNC career; Ninth highest career field goal percentage at 58.9; Shot 60.2 percent in 1975; Eighth all-time at UNC with 1,006 career rebounds; Ninth highest single-season rebounding average ever at UNC with 11.3 in 1976; Averaged a double-double in consecutive seasons in 1975 (18.5 ppg & 10.8 rpg) and 1976 (17.6 ppg & 11.3 rpg), respectively.
In Closing: Another one of Dean Smith’s Olympians in 1976, along with Phil Ford, Walter Davis, and Tommy LaGarde. Kupchak was an outstanding player his last two seasons at UNC. He is only one of four players in Carolina history to average a double-double (points & rebounds) in consecutive seasons. He was the Tar Heel who passed the ball to Walter Davis in 1974 leading to Davis hitting a 25-footer to tie Duke completing a comeback overcoming and eight-point deficit with 17 seconds left. UNC won the game in overtime, and that play is one of the most memorable in program history.
One of the most fundamentally sound players Smith ever coached, Kupchak is probably best remembered for how hard he played. If a stat for floor burns was ever kept, he might be Carolina’s all-time leader. Has had a ton of success winning championships as a player and general manager in the NBA, yet none his four UNC teams ever reached a Final Four. But, the era played a part in that with limited teams participating in the NCAA Tournament, so that shouldn’t take away from Kupchak’s greatness as a Tar Heel.