No. 18: Kenny Smith
*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: Kenny Smith
Jersey #: 30
Honors: National Player of the Year (Basketball Times, The Sporting News) 1987; First-team All-America 1987; Three-time All-ACC, first-team 1987, second-team 1985 & 1986; Patterson Medal 1987; UNC jersey is honored at the Smith Center.
Notable Stats: Second all-time at UNC with 738 career assists (was second all-time nationally when he graduated); Averaged 6.1 assists per game for his career, fourth all-time at Carolina; Fifth all-time at UNC with 13 games in his career with 10 or more assists; 22nd all-time at UNC with 1,636 points; 10th most three-pointers in a season at UNC with 87 in 1987; Averaged 12.9 points, 6.0 assists, 1.5 steals per game over his career.
In Closing: Smith helped lead the Tar Heels to unbeaten ACC marks in 1984 and 1987 during a period when ACC basketball was arguably at its best ever, although Carolina never reached a Final Four during his career. However, had Smith not broken his wrist with the Heels ranked No. 1 in the nation owning a 17-0 record in 1984 (it grew to 21-0 before the Heels lost), it’s possible they would have not only reached the Final Four, but could have ended up taking on Georgetown for the national championship. Carolina was the best team in the nation when healthy that season, so one might say they would have been the favorite to win it all had Smith remained healthy.
For the record, that was Sam Perkins’ senior season and Michael Jordan’s junior campaign, and last, campaign at UNC. “The Jet” was fast, quick, saw the floor exceptionally well, and was as explosive to the basket as any point guard in Carolina history. Few players have ever gone end to end to score following an opponent's score than Kenny Smith.