Raleigh native Randy Denton arguably is one of the best basketball players ever to come out of the state of North Carolina. He stood apart in numerous sports as a youth, including basketball, football, baseball and track. And in addition to starring in basketball at Enloe High School, he also played football and ran track.
But it was on the basketball court where the 6-foot-10 center stood tallest – both literally and figuratively. A high school All-America selection who has had his jersey retired, he was a star in the classroom as well, being recognized as a three-year member of the National Honor Society.
More than 200 schools recruited Denton during his junior and senior years. But with all of the excitement also came abundant sadness, as his father died in 1966 and thus wasn’t able to watch his son rise to prominence. Denton chose to attend Duke to play for Vic Bubas – in part because of his father’s respect for the Hall of Fame coach and the university.
Denton went on to become an All-ACC performer in each of this three varsity seasons. Armed with a soft touch and a nose for the ball, he led the Blue Devils in scoring and rebounding all three years and as a senior in 1970-71 was named All-America. He started every game of his Blue Devil career, averaging 19.7 points – fifth all-time – and 12.7 rebounds per game, which still ranks as No. 1 in Duke’s storied basketball history.
Back before it became a recognized achievement and part of basketball vernacular, Denton recorded an incredible 58 “double-doubles” – games in which he amassed double figures in both points and rebounds. And six times in his career he reached the rarest of air with games in which he totaled at least 20 points and 20 rebounds.
Drafted in the fourth round by the NBA’s Boston Celtics in the summer of 1971, Denton instead chose to sign with the ABA’s Carolina Cougars, which split most of its home games among Charlotte, Greensboro and Raleigh. He went on to play professionally for six years combined in the ABA and NBA, averaging 11.5 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. He spent two more years playing in the Italian League.
Denton, who graduated from Duke with a degree in psychology in 1971, was inducted into the Duke University Sports Hall of Fame in 1991. Ten years later, he was inducted into the prestigious Duke Hall of Honor.
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