Jon Teitel's "Forgotten Legends" Series: North Texas' Kenneth Lyons

July 20th, 2011
In the latest installment in his "Forgotten Legends" interview series CHN writer Jon Teitel spent some time with Kenneth Lyons, who to this day remains the greatest player in the history of North Texas basketball. Lyons remains the school's all-time leading scorer and rebounder, and he was a two-time All American in college.

Jon Teitel: Why did you decide to go to North Texas? 

Kenneth Lyons: I was recruited by 8 schools, including Oklahoma, Texas, etc.  My high school coach's brother was an assistant coach at North Texas so I was funneled that way.  I wanted to go to Oklahoma or Wichita State, but I also wanted to play as a freshman, which is why I went to North Texas.  I led the team in scoring and rebounding during each of my four years, which you will never find today.  I did not have as much talent, but I just outworked everyone.  I should have been a small forward at 6'7", but I sacrificed a lot by playing center because they needed someone down low. 

JT: In 1983 you scored a school-record 47 points in a win against Louisiana Tech in the first round of the Southland Conference tournament. What are your memories of that game, and was it just one of those scenarios where every shot you put up seemed to go in because you were "in the zone"? 

KL: I was #8 in the nation in scoring as a senior, but Karl Malone was named conference POY.  We were an independent until my senior year, which is when we joined the Southland Conference.  I was pissed off that they selected Karl as POY, but I did not understand any of the politics behind it.  I went into the game with a vengeance, and set a school record that still stands today. All 47 of my points were right in Karl's eye!  He fouled out with only six points, and I would have scored even more if they had not taken me out with several minutes left in the game.  I played against several guys that season who were bigger than me (Keith Lee, Mark West, etc.), but I had the best hook shot in the State of Texas. After sending Karl home in the first round, we beat McNeese St. in the semifinals and sent Joe Dumars home. 

JT: You were a two-time All American. How were you able to dominate throughout your college career? 

KL: It only confirmed that hard work pays off. It is as simple as that, which is what I live by today.  I was the strongest undersized center you have ever seen.  I worked out every single day and was dedicated to it: bench press, squats, you name it.  Opponents had to double-team and triple-team me starting from my freshman year. 

JT: In the summer of 1983 you were drafted in the second round by Philadelphia (one spot ahead of Craig Ehlo). Were you thrilled to realize your dream of getting drafted, or disappointed that you did not make the team, or
something in between? 

KL: I was named MVP of the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament after setting a scoring record against guys like Ehlo and Mark West.  I thought I was going to get picked in the first round because my stock went up.  I was invited to the pre-draft camp in Chicago, but did not go to Hawaii because my agent said I had already moved up to the first round.  I ended up dropping into the second round, and I think about that all of the time.  Philly had been scouting me for two years, but I never knew about it until Jack McMahon (director of player personnel) told me about it after I was drafted. 

JT: Do you think that anyone will ever break your scoring and rebounding records? 

KL: I do not think that anyone will ever break my records.  If a player is good enough now as I was back then, there is no way they would go to North Texas.  I know records are made to be broken, but I do not see it happening in my lifetime. 

JT: When people look back on your career, how do you want to be remembered the most? 

KL: I want to be remembered as someone who gave 110% and left it all on the court.  I played the game with passion because I loved it, and I still love it.  If you do not have passion for what you are doing, you are just wasting your time.  North Texas has not retired my jersey yet despite all of my accomplishments, but rumor has it that they might do it after I graduate (Ed. note- Lyons graduated earlier this month).  I have one class left to complete my degree in sociology, and then I plan on marching.  The people who saw me play were amazed by the way I played the game.  I am in an exclusive club of guys with 2,000 PTS/1,000 REB (Danny Manning, Elvin Hayes, etc.), so that is what I am proudest of. 
Lyons is also on Jon's list of best fantasy players in Sun Belt history.

Arkansas State: John Dickson (1967) 1891 PTS (#2), 1139 REB (#2), 62.5 FG% (#2), 2-time All-American, conference POY
Arkansas Little Rock: Derek Fisher (1996) 1393 PTS (#3), 472 AST (#2), 184 STL (#2), All-American, conference POY
Denver: Harry Hollines (1968) 1879 PTS (#1), 2-time All-American
Florida Atlantic: Earnest Crumbley (2004) 1559 PTS (#1), 505 AST (#1), 181 STL (#1), 286 3PM (#1), 79.2 FT% (#3)
Florida International: Dwight Stewart (1993) 2101 PTS (#1), 806 REB (#2), 264 AST (#2), 128 BLK (#1), 172 STL (#3)
Lafayette: Dwight "Bo" Lamar (1973) 3493 PTS (#1), 520 AST (#4), 3-time All-American, conference POY
UL Monroe: Calvin Natt (1979) 2581 PTS (#1), 1285 REB (#1), 57.4 FG% (#4), 3-time All-American, conference POY
Middle Tennessee State: Kerry Hammonds (1989) 1616 PTS (#3), 955 REB (#2)
North Texas: Kenneth Lyons (1983) 2291 PTS (#1), 1095 REB (#1), 2-time All-American
South Alabama: Jeff Hodge (1989) 2221 PTS (#1), 461 AST (#2), 223 STL (#2), All-American, conference POY
Troy: Anthony Reed (1990) 1875 PTS (#1), 913 REB (#3), 149 STL (#5), 57.9 FG% (#2), All-American
Western Kentucky: Jim McDaniels (1971) 2238 PTS (#1), 1118 REB (#4), 3-time All-American, 2-time conference POY