The Olympics are underway, and 10 Tar Heels are competing in Tokyo in various events, for various countries. In honor of the games, throughout the whole of the summer leading up and during them, we’ll be digging into the history books to profile some Tar Heels of the past who competed at the Olympics.
It should come as no surprise that the list of UNC basketball players to play at the Olympics is among the longest of any sport at the university. The only sport that’s sent more Tar Heels to the games is soccer, thanks to the importance Carolina alumns to the USWNT over the years.
Also, it should come as no surprise that the majority of UNC Olympic basketball players have represented the US. However, not all of them. There is one man and one woman from UNC basketball history who have represented a country on the Olympic stage.
The 1992 games in Barcelona were a fairly notable one for basketball. Somewhat memorable Carolina alumn Michael Jordan helped the USA dominate their way to gold as part of the “Dream Team.” One of the teams they crushed along the way was a Germany team that included one Henrik Rödl.
While playing basketball in high school in the US as an exchange student, Rödl caught the eye on Dean Smith, who offered him a scholarship. He went onto spend for years at UNC, helping the 1993 Tar Heels to a national championship.
While at UNC, Rödl was selected for the 1992 Olympics as part of the German team. In a team headlined by Detlef Schrempf, Rödl was a regular in the lineup, averaging 25 minutes per game in Germany’s eight-game run in the tournament.
As mentioned, Germany got crushed by the USA in the group stage, but they did pick up some wins over Spain and Angola to advance out of the group stage and into the quarterfinals. There, they fell to the Unified Team, which was a collection of former Soviet states that were still competing together.
Over the tournament, Rödl averaged six points on 57% shooting for Germany, who finished in seventh place.
Now, 29 years later, he’s again part of a German Olympic basketball team. This time around, Rödl is the head coach of the Germany team, who are 1-1 at time of writing. Their final group stage game is against Australia. They need to finish at least third in their group to advance into the knockout stage.
On the women’s side of things is LaToya Pringle Sanders, and her 2016 Olympics with the Turkish national team.
After a four-year career where she helped UNC to two Final Fours, Sanders was selected 13th overall in the WNBA Draft in 2008. Like many WNBA players, while playing in the US during their summer season, she would also play overseas during the WNBA offseason.
Sanders spent all of her time overseas with a team in Turkey. After a couple years playing over there, she gained Turkish citizenship, and would soon after get selected for the national team. She would be on the roster for Turkey as they qualified for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
On an individual level, Sanders was on of the stars of the 2016 tournament. She was among both the leading scorers and leading rebounders, going for 22.0 and 8.2 per game. As a team, Turkey went 3-2 in the group stage, advancing to the quarterfinals. There, they fell to Spain by just two points on a miracle buzzer beater after she had made a layup to tie the game with just four seconds left.
With basketball continuing to expand globally, it will not be shocking if this list of non-US national team Tar Heels will grown in Olympics yet to come.