Ken Hansen: Walk-on

Isabel Gonzalez

Ken Hansen said he was a 20-20-20 man when he played for the University of New Mexico men’s basketball team from 1952-1955.
“Twenty points ahead, 20 points behind or last 20 seconds,” he laughed.
Hansen, originally from Brooklyn, was a walk-on during the days of Toby Roybal. It’s been a while since he stepped on the court, but he stays in the loop of what is going on with UNM sports through The Lobo Lair under the username Walkon.

Photo provided by Ken Hansen

While he didn’t consider himself a top athlete, Hansen did like to stay active by playing a lot of different sports. Almost everything except tackle football, he said. Being a walk-on for the Lobo basketball team didn’t exactly give him a lot of playing time, but he did get a lot of insight that allows him to have an interesting perspective on the changes that have happened throughout the years in the world of college basketball.
He explained that when he played for the Lobos, sports were not a big priority so there wouldn’t be a lot of money invested in it. Players didn’t think much about going pro, and being on scholarship was not that big of a deal. Tuition was a lot less, and a number of players were aided by the GI Bill or the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps program.
When it came to recruiting, Hansen said coaches seemed to focus on recruiting in the state, with the state tournament being the most important event. Players would usually get signed up less than six months before their college freshman year.
The Lobos typically traveled to away games by bus, this included a round trip to Montana. In three seasons, Hansen said he can only remember two occasions in which the team traveled by plane.
“One time UNM only had enough money for 10 tickets. Nine players and a coach. The rest of us stayed home. We wouldn’t have helped anyway because they got beat by UCLA and USC by 60 points each,” he said. “Traveling is quite different today. Now they complain about waiting at airports. Try sitting in a bus for eight hours.”
The athletic department was a lot smaller. Hansen said he wasn’t sure if the athletic director even had a staff but he was still in charge of both varsity and intramural sports.
As he recalls, about a third of his teammates were able to join fraternities. He admires athletes’ dedication today because it’s a lot tougher to have a social life now with how busy their schedules are in order to compete at a higher level.
Of course, all that dedication definitely pays off. Hansen said his team did not have many impressive statistics to brag about. As far as he can remember, only one of his teammates could shoot over 40%. 
Hansen, who has been married for 64 years and has two sons, keeps up with both men’s and women’s basketball. He says he is looking forward to the upcoming fall season for both teams and has been impressed with the recruiting job the staff is doing. 
For now, Hansen keeps himself entertained by looking through the Lobo Lair and sharing whatever he can. He said people who know him say he is interesting because he comes up “some crazy things that go way back.”
“The last submittal I did for the Lobo Lair was about the basketball tryouts of 1952,” Hansen said. “In that year, 45 guys tried out and I had to beat out more than 30 guys so I could sit at the end of the bench.”