UNT hoops standout Kenneth Lyons gets degree at age 50

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by GEORGE RIBA

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WFAA

Posted on July 5, 2011 at 9:19 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 5 at 9:53 PM

DENTON — Kenneth Lyons played basketball for North Texas back in the late 70s and early 80s. To this day, he's still the school's all-time leading scorer.

"It it wasn't for Pat Hicks passing me the ball all four seasons, to make me the all time leading scorer, I wouldn't have accomplished being the all time leading scorer," Lyons says. "It's not all about me. It's about a group of people that come into your life, that God puts in your life, in your path, that age you."

Lyons has had a support team that has helped him in that aging process and thanks to that support he was finally able to get his college degree.

Dr V. Lane Rawlins, the president of the University of North Texas, made it a point to recognize Lyons on graduation day. "I'd like to point out that our all time leader in scoring in basketball has graduated," he said.

"It was a relief," Lyons said."I really haven't celebrated it, because it really hasn't sunk in yet. But it was a relief more than anything because I had toiled so long doing that and a sense of appreciation. When I stepped on that stage, and shook Dr. Rawlins' hand, it was just a feeling of gratitude of getting such a precious opportunity."

Lyons still takes time to swing by the basketball offices on the North Texas campus to thank the current head coach Johnny Jones for playing a key role in helping him accomplish his goal. At age 50, Lyons can call himself a college graduate after leaving the campus 28 years ago.

"I had five guys who walked across that stage as seniors this past season for graduation," Jones says. "To see Kenneth Lyons get up there 20 some odd years later and walk across that stage, I really had as much pleasure watching him as those five young men who had played for me."

Lyons delayed his college education because he was hoping to have a career in the NBA. He was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1983 draft and was the 47th player taken. But the 76ers were the NBA champions at the time and cracking a lineup dominated by names like Julius Irving, Moses Malone and Maurice Cheeks, proved to a be tough assignment.

Oh draft day, Lyons said this: "It's a privilege and an honor to be drafted by such a ball club and tell Moses and the Doctor to get their tennis shoes ready and let's go."

As it turned out, two years in a row, Lyons was the last man cut from the team, forcing him to play overseas. Even a summer camp with the Dallas Mavericks lead nowhere.

"Dick Motta told me I was too physical," Lyons says.

These days Lyons still spends plenty of time on campus because he's the manager of shipping and receiving for the North Texas bookstore.

"I'm Mean Green for life baby, and so when I could come to the gymnasium, to play with some of the players here and they see my hook shot, you know, it's like 'Look at Old School. Old school! Throw that hook old school.' They hadn't seen a shot like that but it just kept going in."

Because it took him nearly three decades to get his degree, Lyons tells student athletes to make sure they get their degree.

"I want to be able to emphasis the importance of having a degree and then emphasis to the young college athlete to concentrate on his academic portion of his scholarship and not just the athletic portion of his scholarship," Lyons says. "Get your degree and then you have more control over your life."

For the last eight years, Lyons has been a member of the North Texas hall of fame but now he can also call himself a college graduate as well. Reliving his past can be difficult at times.

"Coach Blakeley passed last year and he is the person who coached me, and gave me the opportunity to be the all time leading scorer," Lyons says."That's my heart right there, Coach Bill Blakeley. He's more of a friend that a coach. He taught me a lot about life. I just want to pay tribute to him."

Lyons had tears when he talked about all of his old coaches, including Blakeley and Jimmy Gayles. "Just the opportunity, it's overwhelming because so many people do not get these types of opportunities."

Lyons did and he's grateful for every opportunity and everyone who has touched his life.

E-mail griba@wfaa.com

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