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 discussion about the greatest basketball players in ACC history usually includes the likes of David Thompson, Michael Jordan, Christian Laettner, Tim Duncan, Ralph Sampson and Len Bias.
Rarely is Dickie Hemric’s name included.
And that’s a shame since an argument can be made that no one dominated the conference during his era more than the Wake Forest forward who was the ACC’s first legitimate superstar. Consider that 64 years after playing his final college game, Hemric’s conference record of 1,802 career rebounds still stands, as does his NCAA Division I record of 1,359 free-throw attempts.
His 2,587 career points were the most by an ACC player until it was broken by Duke’s J.J. Redick in 2006.
Though small for a dominant low post presence by today’s standards at 6-foot-6, 225 pounds, Hemric was nearly unstoppable around the basket thanks to a combination of strength and tenacity that was the product of his rural upbringing during the Great Depression.
“He was as strong as a bull, knew how to get position better than anyone around, knew how to anticipate rebounds and was completely unselfish,” former Deacon teammate Jack Murdock said of Hemric in a 2006 interview with the newspaper in Hemric’s adopted hometown of Canton, Ohio. “He was unique. For him to do what he did at 6-6 was remarkable.”
Hemric was a first-team all-conference selection in all four of his college seasons, earning Southern Conference Player of the Year honors in 1953 and the ACC’s Player of the Year award in each of the league’s first two seasons of existence. He was also named the second winner of the ACC’s Athlete of the Year award following his senior year of 1955 and was Wake Forest’s first All-American.
In 2003, on the ACC’s 50th anniversary, Hemric was selected along with Thompson, Jordan, Laettner, Duncan and the others as one of the conference’s 50 Greatest Players.
Following college, he was drafted 10th overall by the Boston Celtics. Although he had a hard time cracking the lineup of the NBA’s most dominant team and played only two professional seasons, Hemric did earn a championship ring in 1957 before retiring to take a job with the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company.