The University of New Mexico Lobos men’s basketball team is one of the top schools in the Mountain West Conference. New Mexico has reached a dozen NCAA Tournaments and 33 former Lobos have been selected in the NBA Draft. The top NBA players from the University of New Mexico include current All-Star Danny Granger and former Defensive Player of the Year Michael Cooper.
The best active NBA player from the University of New Mexico is Pacers’ All-Star Danny Granger. As a senior, Granger led the Lobos to their first Mountain West Conference Championship and played in the 2005 NCAA Tournament. He was drafted in the first round of the 2005 draft by the Pacers, beginning a four-year climb to become one of the NBA’s top scorers. In 2008-09, Granger was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player with the fifth highest scoring average in the league at 25.8 points per game. He has knocked down 511 three-pointers in the last three seasons for an average of 2.4 per game on a .390 percentage.
Top defensive guard Michael Cooper was one of the best NBA players from the University of New Mexico. Cooper spent his entire 12-year career with the Lakers as a great shooter and eight-time All-Defensive player. He was a part of five Lakers championship teams in the 1980s. Winner of the 1987 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award, Cooper had career averages of 8.9 points, 3.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.2 steals per game.
Though he spent only one season in the NBA, center Mel Daniels was a perennial ABA All-Star for the Pacers and a great basketball player from the University of New Mexico. Daniels averaged 20 points and 11 rebounds for the Lobos and became the ninth pick of the 1967 NBA Draft. He opted to enter the ABA and his decision paid off brilliantly. Daniels was the ABA Rookie of the Year in 1968 as he began a streak of seven straight All-Star selections. From 1969 to 1973, he won two ABA MVP Awards and led the Pacers to three championships. Daniels is the all-time leading rebounder for both the ABA and the Indiana Pacers. In his nine professional seasons from 1967 to 1977, he averaged 18.4 points, 14.9 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game.
Power forward Kenny Thomas played 11 NBA seasons as one of the top NBA players from New Mexico. From 1996 to 1999, Thomas led the Lobos to four wins in the NCAA Tournament out of seven in school history. He entered the NBA as a first round pick by the Rockets and averaged a career-high 14.1 points in his last full season with the team. In 2003-04, he had a double-double season with 13.6 points and 10.1 rebounds for the Sixers. As a member of the Kings through 2010, Thomas reached career totals of 5,876 points and 4,341 boards.
Known for his time with the Bulls, Luc Longley played ten seasons in the NBA after graduating from New Mexico. The Wolves chose Longley with the seventh pick of the 1991 NBA Draft and he spent three years with the team. After joining the Bulls in 1994, Longley played on their three NBA Championship teams in 1996, 1997, and 1998. He had his best season in the Bulls’ last title year when he averaged 11.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game.
NBA & ABA Players Who Attended University of New Mexico. Basketball-Reference.com