Kenny Thomas (Basketball 1996-99)
Ask any Lobo basketball fan and they will tell you Kenny Thomas was nothing short of a superstar, a hometown hero, and will forever be one of the faces of Lobo basketball. A record setter and fan favorite, Kenny Thomas most certainly made his mark at the University of New Mexico, including being a part of the Lobos best four-year mark in school history.
A USA Today and Parade Magazine high school All-American, it was no shocker that Kenny burst on to the college scene. As a freshman, he was a major contributor to the team that set a school record for wins, finished ranked in both polls and won the Western Athletic Conference Tournament. He was rewarded with numerous awards such as the WAC Freshman of the Year, All-WAC Newcomer Team, first team All-District 7, first team All-WAC, 1996 WAC Tournament MVP, and third team freshman All-America. Kenny was just the fifth freshman in the history of the WAC to be named to the first team. Freshman records came crumbling down that season, as he set records in both scoring and rebounding. He was known for his rebounding and blocking skills, leading the team in both categories all four years of his UNM career. Currently, he is still listed as the all time leader for freshmen rebounding.
Kenny's sophomore season the Lobos enjoyed more success, again making the NCAA Tournament with the highest seed in school history (3) and earning a Top 25 ranking in both basketball polls for the entire season, a first for the University. With two seconds left in the game, Kenny helped push the Lobos to the second round in the "Big Dance" by nailing two free throws against Old Dominion. Once again Kenny was named to the NABC all-district team and was a second team selection for All-WAC honors. Following the season, he was a member of the gold-medal winning US team that competed at the World University Games in Trapani, Italy.
During the 1998 season, Kenny became just the fifth Lobo to earn All-American status in basketball. Once again, he was named the WAC Tournament MVP despite the Lobos loss in the Championship game. He scored 56 points and grabbed 35 rebounds in the three games. With senior Royce Olney, he was named UNM co-MVP, again made the NABC first team all-district, was first team All-WAC, made the WAC all defensive team, and was chosen the WAC Mountain Division player of the year. Kenny's other accolades that season included being a finalist for the Naismith Player of the Year award, the John Wooden Award and player of the year by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.
In Kenny's final season as a Lobo, he made sure he was going to leave a legacy. He became the first player in the history of the WAC to surpass 1,800 points, 1,000 rebounds, and 200 blocked shots when he got eight boards against conference rival, BYU. He became the first Lobo to receive all-conference honors three times when he was named first team All-WAC in 1999 and also earned a spot on the all-defensive team for the second year in a row. Kenny's statistics at UNM are incredible. His record at The Pit was an awesome 71-3. The Lobos made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament each year that Kenny was on the team.
In the 1999 NBA Draft, Kenny was a first round pick (22nd overall) for the Houston Rockets. He went on to play eleven seasons in the NBA for Houston, Philadelphia and Sacramento. Kenny used his basketball success to create The Kenny Thomas Foundation. The Foundation focuses on education awareness and helps get young people involved in the community. Without question, he is one of the most highly recognizable Lobo Lettermen and has represented UNM in the highest caliber. To many, he is the greatest Lobo of all time.