Posted by Matt Norlander
Last week, we posted on the sad story of former UNLV star Lewis Brown, who currently is living homeless in the streets of Los Angeles.
Today, the flip side. North Texas' all-time leading scorer in men's hoops, Kenneth Lyons, received his degree from the university over the weekend. Twenty-eight years after he left the school. It's common to see a former star in basketball and football slowly but surely earn their degree in the decade after leaving early to pursue big-time dreams and cash. But nearly three decades? It's ironically considered more impressive when a former student finally comes around to finishing what they started.
“I was thinking about completing a journey that turned into a pilgrimage,” Lyons said during a reception in his honor a short time later, the black graduation gown still hanging from his hulking 6-7 frame.“I had a strong sense of satisfaction,” he said. “God enabled me to continue on and finish.”And Lyons' track to getting his diploma was a tough one. It was a struggle, one that he overcame with the help of the men's coach, Johnny Jones, and other staffers.
Lyons played from 1979 to 1983, leading the Mean Green in scoring all four years, crescendoing with a 24.3 average in his ultimate season. He once put up 47 on a young Karl Malone. Despite the fact he twice earned Honorable Mention on the AP All-America team, the team was never a factor, really, finishing with 13 wins his freshman year, then 15 wins each proceeding one. It wasn't until 1982-83 that UNT earned a spot in the Southland Conference. (The team is now a part of the Sun Belt.)
You might be wondering, Wait, he played four years and didn't get his degree? Indeed he did not. Lyons was drafted in '83 in the second round by Philadelphia, still plenty of credits shy of graduating. After petering out of the NBA, Lyons played international ball throughout the '80s before giving up the game. Since 2000, Lyons has been working diligently to earn his degree. Yep: 11 years for less than a year's worth of classes. His hand was guided, not held, through this process. He took on a job working in the university's bookstore to help pay for credits. This wasn't a PR push; Lyons failed an algebra course four times before finally getting through this past year.
He'd never taken a shot so long and failed so often as with this. It was clearly as humbling for Lyons as it was rewarding. Congrats to him on perseverance and proving once again that it's never too late to step into a classroom and demand yourself to learn and achieve. Awesome story. One of the best of this offseason so far.
Photo via Dallas News