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University of North Carolina Tar Heels

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When legendary University of North Carolina coach Dean Smith wanted his basketball team to get better back in the early 1960’s, he decided to open up his recruiting to start taking a look at black players at the persuasion of his church pastor . However, finding a black player that could fit the successful “Tar Heel” basketball player profile and have the grades the university required for admittance would be a challenge.

Charles “Charlie” Scott, a New York City native, would fit the bill perfectly. Scott, who eventually left New York City his senior year to enroll at Laurinburg Institute in North Carolina, was not only one of the nation’s top high school players; he was also the 1966 valedictorian of his high school. To be a top athlete AND to be smart enough to be top of your class was a rare accomplishment whether you were white or black.

Naturally because of the winning combination of basketball skills and book smarts, UNC and Dean Smith had some company when trying to recruit Charlie Scott. He was also highly regarded and being recruited by fellow North Carolina colleges such as Duke, NC State, and Wake Forest. Eventually, Scott chose to play for the Tar Heels and Coach Smith.

Charlie Scott went on to become the first African-American scholarship athlete for the university and the first big-name African-American player in the Atlantic Coast Conference history. With his smooth jump shot and graceful athleticism, Scott was an immediate star on the court. Faced with terrible racism on the road in the ACC and in a few instances not being able to celebrate victories with his teammates on campus, Scott was able to overcome the distractions to lead UNC to consecutive Final Fours in 1968 and 1969.

Charlie Scott ended his UNC career as a two time All American and averaging 22.1 points a game for his UNC career (still one of the highest scoring averages for the UNC program) in 1970. Charlie Scott went on to play professional in the now-defunct ABA as well as the NBA where he won an NBA Title playing with the Boston Celtics in 1976.

Charlie Scott Becomes UNC’s First African-American Scholarship Basketball Player  was originally published on