April 18, 2013
Albuquerque, N.M. --- Alex Kirk and Kendall Williams shared team Most Valuable Player honors, capping off the 2012-13 New Mexico Lobos men's basketball end-of-season banquet, sponsored by Branch Law Firm, which was held at the Embassy Suites Hotel on Thursday night.
The 7-foot Kirk took home three team awards, including Outstanding Defensive Player and Comeback Player of the Year, an award he shared with Chad Adams. Kirk also led the team in rebounding and field goal percentage.
For Kirk and Williams, it could be argued that both not only were integral to the team's success this season (29-6, championships in the Paradise Jam, the Mountain West regular season, and the Mountain West Tournament), but that they truly should share the award because each made the other successful. Williams and Kirk provided the inside-outside combination that on most nights could not be beaten.
Williams, who was the Mountain West league MVP, led the team with a 13.3 scoring average, nailing down 453 points. He also led the team with 166 assists, 153 free throws, and he was second in steals with 38. Williams made national news with his 46-point 10-three-pointer afternoon in a 91-82 win at Colorado State that served as the de facto Mountain West regular season championship game, and ended CSU's 27-game home winning streak, the third-longest in the nation at the time.
Williams eventually went on to be named to a pair of All-District teams, and was an AP honorable mention All-American selection. He also was one of 20 named to the Cousy Watch List at midseason as the nation's top point guard.
Kirk was third in scoring at 12.1 points per game, and he led the team in both rebounding (8.1 per game) and blocks with 63. Kirk's .494 field goal percentage led the team, and he was Second Team All-Mountain West and All-Defensive. After questions of who would fill the role vacated by the departed Drew Gordon, Kirk showcased his durability, playing in all 35 games, starting the final 33. All that after sitting out the 2011-12 season with a back injury and recovering from back surgery.
Kirk's inside dominance combined with William's heady play on the outside served as the catalyst for UNM's title run and 29-win season.
Kirk's defensive abilities, particularly his rebounding and shot blocking ability earned him Second Team All-Mountain West honors, an All-District selection, and a spot on the Mountain West All-Defensive Team. That and his return from injury are reasons enough to earn two other awards at the banquet as Outstanding Defensive Player and Comeback Player of the Year. He shared the latter award with Chad Adams.
Adams, a New Mexico native like Kirk, went from not playing in the second game of the Paradise Jam to helping UNM defeat Connecticut in the championship game to starting 14 games of his senior season. Adams set career-highs in minutes, rebounds, points ... basically every category on offense, and he ended the season averaging 4.5 points and 3.2 rebounds, shooting 46 percent from both the field and the three.
Adams and fellow senior Jamal Fenton were honored as the all-time winningest Lobos, as they each won 109 games in their careers. Adams and Fenton won 29 this year, 28 last year, 22 as sophomores, and 30 as freshmen.
This year's freshmen won 29 games, giving them a good start at trying to catch Adams and Fenton. One of those freshman was Cleveland Thomas, known by his nickname Pancake. Thomas was named the teams' Newcomer of the Year after playing in 34 games, starting two and averaging 1.1 points and 0.8 rebounds. However, Thomas excelled defensively, and provided big minutes in the Mountain West Tournament.
His signature play might have come in game two, when he helped cap a frantic comeback against George Mason as he drove baseline then found Tony Snell for the game-winning three-pointer with 1.8 seconds left in a 70-69 win over the Colonials.
Other award winners included Hugh Greenwood, who was named the Lobo Award winner for best all-around student-athlete. Greenwood, who led the team in steals with 47 and was fifth in scoring and third in rebounding, has combined his successes on the court with the classroom as well.
The Sixth Man of the Year award went to Jamal Fenton, who served as a catalyst off the bench his entire career, but none more so than this past season, playing in 32 games providing key moments and hustle plays all season, whether it was his diving save of a rebound that was going out of bounds in the Mountain West title game against UNLV, or his nine straight points on three straight three-pointers against Boise State that lifted UNM to a win over the Broncos.
Cameron Bairstow, who along with Greenwood will get to revisit his home country of Australia in August when the Lobos take a foreign tour there, was named Most Improved. Bairstow became a starter, starting 19 games and playing in all 35, averaging 9.7 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Cameron was named honorable mention All-Mountain West (as was Greenwood), and Bairstow was also named to the All-Mountain West Tournament team.
Other awards were presented for highest field goal percentage (Alex Kirk, 49%) highest free throw percentage (Tony Snell 84%), Leading rebounder (Kirk, 8.1), Most charges (Cameron Bairstow and Jamal Fenton, 13), Most Assists (Kendall Williams, 166), and Academic Achievement (Kory Alford).
Outstanding Defensive Player: Alex Kirk
Lobo Award: Hugh Greenwood
Most Improved Player: Cameron Bairstow
Sixth Man of the Year: Jamal Fenton
Newcomer of the Year: Cleveland Thomas
Academic Achievement: Kory Alford
Highest FG%: Alex Kirk
Highest FT%: Tony Snell
Leading Rebounder: Alex Kirk
Most Assists: Kendall Williams