Distinguished Young Alumni Award
Bradley Lee Daugherty ’86
Brad Daugherty didn’t play basketball for his school until he was a 10th grader. Like his two older brothers, Brad skipped the eighth grade. Then he blossomed from a modest 6-foot-3 to 6-10 between his sophomore and junior years.
And as we all know, height alone does not attract the attention of Dean Smith and Bill Guthridge. He was somewhat of a prodigy when he arrived in Chapel Hill and started looking for his place on a campus more than 10 times the size of his home town of Black Mountain. Brad was all of 16 years old.
Coach Smith at first considered sitting him out a year to let him mature. But a guy who gets a late start must figure he has some catching up to do. He was bright, and he was a hard worker, and very soon he was getting minutes on the court with the likes of Sam Perkins ’84, Matt Doherty ’84, and Michael Jordan ’86.
By his senior year Brad led the ACC in field goal percentage and scored 20 points a game. In NCAA tournament games he was as reliable as they come, with a 68 percent field goal average. And by the time he took the 1986 Patterson Medal and left the nest, he held one of those Carolina trademarks, one of those first-class tickets to the next level: He was a big man with exceptional defensive skills. He was the first player taken in the 1986 NBA draft.
Brad would have made his way in the world, and made his mark on it, just fine with basketball alone. But he always had the broader world in mind.
Back in BlackMountain, while attending OwenHigh School, he used to stop by the Presbyterian Home for Children across the street to shoot hoops in the gym. Impressed with the staff’s work with neglected and abused children, Brad began hosting the annual Cardinal Open golf tournament which has raised more than $100,000 for the Presbyterian Home.
In 2001 he announced he would sponsor an annual scholarship to help a Presbyterian Home child receive a higher education. The home’s associate director, Renee Kreisa, said this: “Though raising money for a good cause is important, perhaps the real magic of Brad’s relationship with Presbyterian Home comes from his personal exposure that he gives so genuinely. At each year’s tournament, Brad spends a great deal of time with the children. He asks and answers questions, encourages their growth, and his appearance at the tournament has become one of the most anticipated events for many of the home’s children.”
And sometimes his fund-raising is just plain fun. His jersey number originated with the 43 on the side of Richard Petty’s car, and he has been involved in race team ownership. Racing has figured into his charity work, too—like the time Brad teamed up with three NASCAR drivers to raise $20,000 in a celebrity bowling tournament, the proceeds of which went to the HaywoodCounty school system in western North Carolina.
Brad Daugherty basketball camps always have been a big hit. He has taken a different approach, bringing in kids from different socioeconomic backgrounds to play ball and to learn about each other. Brad once noted that his campers included “kids who are blessed beyond imagination with material things, and kids who have nothing, including parents.”
It’s all right, Brad says, to go to college to play ball. But, in the words he wrote for his hometown newspaper, “If you accept a scholarship to an institution of higher learning, you should take advantage of the opportunity to empower yourself through education. The real privilege comes in receiving a quality education that, unfortunately, is taken for granted not just by athletes, but by our society.”
Brad’s giving back to the University includes not only donations, but strong words of support for the SonjaHanesStoneCenter for Black Culture and History when the center needed voices like his. He has served on the Board of Visitors and on the Athletic Council of the GAA Board.
By the way, the Cleveland Cavaliers got their money’s worth, too. Though back problems forced him to leave the game before he was ready, Brad became Cleveland’s all-time leading scorer and went to five all-star games. His jersey hangs in the SmithCenter, and in Cleveland no one will wear No. 43 again.
Now he is an entertaining advocate for the game as a successful broadcaster. We don’t mind if he has a good word for the Tar Heels now and then—but like any good broadcaster, he has proven to be appropriately objective. And recently he was honored again, as one of the top 50 players in the first 50 years of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
There’s no other way to say it. Brad Daugherty makes UNC look good. And as proud as Carolina is in his success on the court, today we also pay tribute to his sensitivity and responsiveness to the needs of the larger community. It is indeed a big man whom we honor today.
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