North State Journal’s 100 in 100 series will showcase the best athlete from each of North Carolina’s 100 counties. From Alamance to Yancey, each county will feature one athlete who stands above the rest. Some will be obvious choices, others controversial, but all of our choices are worthy of being recognized for their accomplishments — from the diamond and gridiron to racing ovals and the squared circle. You can see all the profiles as they’re unveiled here.
The numbers Pete Maravich put up on the basketball court were astounding as is. A half-century after playing his final college game at LSU, the player known as “Pistol Pete” is still the all-time leading scorer in NCAA history.
But as prolific as he was at putting the ball in the basket in recording 3,667 career points and an average of 44.2 points per game, one can only imagine how much gaudier those totals might have been had freshmen been eligible when he played. Or if there had been a 3-point line and a shot clock to speed the game up as there are today.
It’s hard to imagine now given the gift of hindsight, but some looked at Maravich’s flashy ballhandling, long hair and trademark floppy socks as he was putting up equally big numbers at Raleigh’s Broughton High School and dismissed him as an example of style over substance.
But the truth is that the 6-foot-4 guard wasn’t just a scoring machine. He was also a gym rat and the most fundamentally sound player on the court thanks to the efforts of his father Press Maravich, a college coach who obsessively pushed his talented son to practice the basics — along with the between-the-legs dribbles, behind-the-back passes and circus shots that became his trademark.
Press Maravich was actually hired by NC State as Everett Case’s heir apparent because of his son. But when Pete didn’t qualify academically, forcing him to spend a year at Edwards Military Institute in Salemburg, where he averaged 33 points per game. By the time Pete was finally able to get into college, Press had moved on to LSU.
After his record-setting career with the Tigers, in which he led the nation in scoring three times but never reached the NCAA Tournament, he played 10 NBA seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, New Orleans Jazz and Boston Celtics — earning five All-Star selections and the league scoring title in 1977 before being slowed by injuries.
Maravich averaged better than 24 points and five assists per game as a pro and was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1987. He died a year later at the age of 40, suffering a heart attack while playing in a pickup game.