Perhaps it was only a fleeting truth, a statistical anomaly. Or maybe we just noticed a blip in a quiet race apt to continue for the remainder of the season. The sight was striking regardless: There atop the list of ACC rebound leaders were two Tar Heels, big men John Henson and Tyler Zeller.
Last season Henson grabbed 10.1 rebounds per game, second only to Maryland's Jordan Williams (11.8). No school had more than a single player among the league's top five in rebound average in 2011.
This year, through games of Jan. 27, Henson led the ACC by again averaging 10.1 rebounds. No school had two rebounders in the top 10, let alone the top 5.
Except, that is, for North Carolina. The 7-foot Zeller averaged 9.7 rebounds over his team's first 20 games, ranking behind only Henson, his gangly 6-11 teammate.
Within two days, after Duke outlasted St. John's, Virginia edged N.C. State, and UNC crushed Georgia Tech, the order was shuffled a bit.
Henson still led the ACC, although with 9.9 rebounds. (The junior also led in blocked shots with 69, 3.3 per game.) Duke's Mason Plumlee, buoyed by a career-best 17 rebounds against the Red Storm, bobbed up to second place at 9.8. N.C. State's Richard Howell muscled into third with a personal high of 18 boards against Virginia. Zeller's 9.3 average fell to fourth.
Seeing Henson and Zeller pace the conference on the boards, even for a day, seemed rather unusual. In fact, we couldn't recall the last time we'd seen two players from the same team ranked similarly in rebounding. So, as is our custom, we checked.
It's happened just once in ACC history, back in 1959. That year Everett Case's conference champs boasted the league's leading rebounder, John Richter (14.2), and the No. 2 man, George Stepanovich (12.7). Both were seniors.
Even a team with two of the league's top three rebounders is rare -- it's happened only six times, including the Richter-Stepanovich riff of '59.
We knew UNC's interior size and athleticism was a strength in 2012; now we're starting to see the historic nature of that dominance. Certainly it's a departure at Chapel Hill, where no pair has ever ranked in the top three among ACC rebounders in the same season. Not Pete Brennan and Lenny Rosenbluth, Rusty Clark and Larry Miller, Bob McAdoo and Bobby Jones, Mitch Kupchak and Tommy LaGarde, Sam Perkins and James Worthy, J.R. Reid and Scott Williams, Rasheed Wallace and Jerry Stackhouse, or anyone else.
Rank In ACC
|2012||No. Carolina||John Henson (9.9), Tyler Zeller (9.3)||1,4*|
|2000||Maryland||Lonny Baxter (8.8), Terrence Morris (8.6)||2,3|
|1997||Ga. Tech||Matt Harpring (8.2), Ed Elisma (8.2)||3,3|
|1990||Clemson||Dale Davis (11.3), Elden Campbell (8.0)||1,4|
|1979||Maryland||Buck Williams (10.8), Larry Gibson (8.6)||1,3|
|Duke||Mike Gminski (9.2), Gene Banks (8.5)||2,4|
|1978||Duke||Mike Gminski (9.97), Gene Banks (8.6)||2,4|
|1973||Maryland||Len Elmore (11.2), Tom McMillen (9.8)||2,4|
|1967||So. Carolina||Gary Gregor (13.3), Frank Standard (11.3)||1,3|
|1964||Wake Forest||Ronny Watts (12.0), Frank Christie (9.4)||2,4|
|1963||Duke||Art Heyman (10.8), Jay Buckley (9.9)||2,4|
|1962||Duke||Art Heyman (11.2), Jeff Mullins (10.4)||2,3|
|1959||N.C. State||John Richter (14.2), Geo. Stepanovich (12.7)||1,2|
|1957||So. Carolina||Grady Wallace (14.4), Fred Lentz (12.4)||1,3|
|1956||N.C. State||Ronnie Shavlik (19.5), Phil DiNardo (11.2)||1,5|
|* Through games of Jan. 30, 2012|
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