Pro Heels: Catching up with Tar Heels in the NBA


The Tar Heels have never had a shortage of an influence on the National Basketball Association. There are currently 17 UNC alums currently occupying NBA rosters. Twelve of those 17 were drafted in the last five years with four (Wayne Ellington, Danny Green, Tyler Hansbrough, and Ty Lawson) coming in the 2009 draft.

Let’s take a look at how much of an impact these players are having on the pro product.

Rookies: P.J. Hairston, Travis Wear.

Not your conventional ex-Heels as Wear was a UCLA transfer and Hairston went through his personal issues, but they are still UNC alums, they still helped the program win some games once upon a time, and they’re now in the NBA.

Hairston is currently scoring 5.4 PPG for the Hornets while Wear is playing for the Knicks scoring 3.0 PPG. Neither one of these two are big impact players, but I won’t be surprised if Hairston finds his niche in the NBA and has a productive career.

The ’09 Class: Ty Lawson, Danny Green, Wayne Ellington, Tyler Hansbrough.

The most special class that I’ve personally ever watched, from the time they were announced as signees to their last game in the 2009 national championship, is doing just fine in the NBA.

Ty Lawson has been the most successful individual performer and having a great season so far with averages of 16.2 PPG and 10.3 APG. He’s an all-star caliber point guard that has somehow never been named to the team, likely due to the heavy amount of PG talent in the western conference. Tony Parker, Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, among others make it difficult for the 2009 ACC POY to gain any recognition. Playing in Denver doesn’t do him any favors, either.

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Danny Green, an afterthought during their draft process and someone who not many NBA teams thought much of, is the most recognizable player of these four as a professional after his unbelievable shooting performances in the last two NBA finals against the Miami Heat. He’s currently scoring 12.5 PPG, getting 4.4 RPG, and 2.1 APG for the defending champion Spurs.

Wayne Ellington is getting some much earned playing time on the struggling Lakers and doing a good job during the rebuilding period in Los Angeles. For the season he’s scoring just about 7 PPG, grabbing 2.7 RPG and getting 1.2 APG. He will always have a place in the NBA with his ability to hit shots like his former teammate, Green.

Tyler Hansbrough, the most decorated player in UNC history is still playing as hard as ever for the 24-8 and first place Toronto Raptors. He’s a hustle player that changes the tempo of the game upon his presence. A great energy player that comes off the bench for Toronto is scoring just under 3 PPG but his biggest assets are plays there are no statistics for.

They’re still playing? – Vince Carter, Brendan Haywood

Yes that’s right, these two guys were playing for the Tar Heels the last time anyone can remember gas getting under $2.00/gallon. Carter is occupying his time with the Memphis Grizzlies and still has some bounce left in his legs. Don’t believe me?

Still productive at the tender age of 37 he’s scoring 6.8 PPG for Memphis and making plays like ones he used to make in the Dean Dome. Haywood is on the Cavaliers roster but has only competed in 8 games this season.

Better than expected: Tyler Zeller

Why the Cavaliers let go of this guy is beyond me. He’s definitely making them regret their decision with his solid play for the Boston Celtics this year. After two good years for Cleveland he found himself calling Boston Garden his home floor now. He’s currently averaging 9.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.1 assists for the Celts. I never thought he had the respect he had earned coming into the NBA.

I suppose it wouldn’t be fair to leave Harrison Barnes out of this discussion. The wing from Ames, Iowa is playing solid basketball for the front-running Warriors of Golden State. Averages of 10.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 1.5 assists are helping the league leading Warriors who are currently sitting at 25-5.

The rest of the bunch:
Brandan Wright (Boston Celtics)
Ed Davis (Los Angeles Lakers)
Marvin Williams (Charlotte Hornets)
John Henson (Milwaukee Bucks)
Kendall Marshall (Milwaukee Bucks)
Reggie Bullock (Los Angeles Clippers)
Raymond Felton (Dallas Mavericks)

There you have it, 17 players spanning 14 NBA teams with guys drafted as far back as 1998 (Carter) to just this past June. The Heels never have and never will have a shortage of players in the NBA that call Carolina their alma mater.