Friday night, Ralph Sampson will take his place among the game's greatest basketball players when he is formally inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame.
Sampson, who grew up in Harrisonburg, Va., picked Virginia over UNC (among others). He dominated college basketball like few others and had plenty of success against Triangle teams.
We caught up with Terry Holland, Sampson's coach and now ECU's AD, to talk about Ralph's rivalry against UNC, Duke and N.C. State.
Holland on UNC:
"The games against all three Triangle teams were always intense and hotly contested affairs. However, the Carolina/Virginia games in 1981, 1982 and 1983 had a little extra spice as both teams were usually ranked in the Top Five and fighting for a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament. Those games also featured a large number of future NBA All Stars."
Holland on N.C. State:
"The four years of games when Ralph's teams played against Bailey, Whittenburg and Lowe were always highly competitive as well. Of course, the last two games were part of NC State's incredible run to the 1983 National Championship."
Holland on Duke;
"Ralph's years against Duke teams first matched up the skinny freshman against Mike Gminski and Ralph's team won those two to begin a four year winning streak for the Cavs.
"Ralph's last game against a very young Duke team was a blowout affair in the first round of the ACC Tournament. Duke used that loss as motivation to begin a multi-year winning streak of their own against UVA.
"The strangest part of that story was finally settled this past season, 29?years after it occurred. Somehow, Coach K thought Sampson had played the whole game and said so on the Dan Patrick Show. After Virginia fans faxed in the box scores from the game, Patrick correctly noted that Sampson played FOURTEEN minutes instead of FORTY."
Holland on Sampson's legacy:
"Sampson appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated six times in those four years and was a consensus Three Time National Player of the Year while graduating with his class in four years, But the most impressive thing about him after those four years is that those things did not change him one bit and he still loves being on Myrtle Street in Harrisonburg.
"He was the unanimous pick for Rookie of the Year and an NBA All-Star all four seasons. He was the All-Star MVP in his second year. Ralph more than lived up to the huge expectations fans had for his NBA career until injuries took their toll during his fourth season."