N.C. Sports Hall of Famer Randy Denton recalls Duke, Bubas
Some 200 colleges recruited 6-foot-10 Randy Denton of Raleigh’s Enloe High School in the late 1960s.
Really, for a guy who even today lives next door to the house he grew up in, anyone from outside North Carolina was wasting their time.
Denton got on a plane for one recruiting trip, flying all the way to Charlotte to visit Davidson where coach Lefty Driesell wanted him.
N.C. State and UNC gave it their best shot, but Duke turned out to be Denton’s choice because of his family’s fondness for Blue Devil coach Vic Bubas.
“My dad died when I was 17 and he liked Duke and respected Vic Bubas,” Denton said. “That’s why I went to Duke. Coach Bubas was a father figure to me.”
Denton played just one season for Bubas, who retired after the 1968-69 season. But Denton kept starring and was a three-time all-ACC selection for the Blue Devils.
That success is why Denton will be inducted into the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame tonight along with eight other coaches, athletes and journalists.
Bubas took Duke to its first Final Fours, putting Duke basketball on the national scene long before anyone had heard of Mike Krzyzewski. Happy to play for Bubas, Denton sat out his freshman year as was the NCAA rule of the era.
In 1968-69, Denton averaged 17.8 points and 12.4 rebounds playing his first season of college basketball. Still, Duke stood just above .500 entering the ACC Tournament in Charlotte.
Denton and Bubas had one stirring run together.
The Blue Devils beat Virginia and South Carolina to reach the championship game opposite rival North Carolina. Only the winner could reach the NCAA Tournament.
Denton scored 19 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, but Charlie Scott poured in 40 points for Dean Smith’s Tar Heels and UNC captured the ACC title with an 85-74 win.
“We came close to a championship,” Denton said, “but Charlie Scott beat us in Charlotte. He lit us up.”
Denton played the next two seasons for coach Bucky Waters and continued to be a double-double machine even though the term wasn’t used then. He reached double-figures in scoring and rebounding 58 times during his Duke career. Six times he had 20 or more points and 20 or more rebounds.
“He was very skilled,” Waters said. “He was very talented and a really fine young man.”
Denton had a chance to join the famed Boston Celtics in 1971 but Red Auerbach wouldn’t offer him a guaranteed contract. So Denton opted to play for the American Basketball Association’s Carolina Cougars instead because they offered him a no-cut contract.
“At least I was going to get some money,” Denton said.
After a few weeks, though, he was traded to Memphis where he established himself as a professional player. He also played for Utah before the ABA folded in 1976.
Former Duke assistant coach Hubie Brown, then with the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks, brought Denton there for a season. Denton finished his playing career in Italy.
Denton’s career rebounding average at Duke of 12.7 remains the school record. He also averaged 19.7 points.