Robert “Bob” Kenney Born: June 23, 1931 (Arkansas City, KS)
Graduated: Winfield High School, 1948; University of Kansas, 1952
It is often said there is no “I” in team. Perhaps no other team in the history of University of Kansas basketball exemplifies that better than the 1952 national championship squad. Although there was a clear leader, All-American and Kansas Sports Hall of Fame inductee Clyde Lovellette, the team would not have been the same without the supporting cast including senior Bob Kenney.
Kenney was raised in basketball tradition rich Winfield, Kansas in Cowley County. The town has produced some of the greatest stars of Kansas basketball history including Gerald Tucker, Ernest Schmidt, and 2013 Kansas Sports Hall of Fame inductee Bob Brannum. And today, Bob Kenney’s basketball legacy is placed alongside these greats in the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.
Kenney was an all-around athlete, lettering in baseball, football, and basketball at Winfield High School before his arrival at the University of Kansas, where he lettered in both football and basketball.
Under the tutelage of head coach Phog Allen, Kenney became a pivotal piece to the success of the Jayhawk basketball squad. As a junior in 1951, Kenney broke into the starting line-up and finished second on the team in points per game, averaging 8.2.
In 1952, with defenses focusing on stopping the inside presence of All-American center Clyde Lovellette, the other members of the team needed to step up their game to keep opposing defenses honest. Kenney led the charge averaging 13.1 points – again second on the team to the nation’s leading scorer, Lovellette. A senior co-captain, Kenney earned the nickname “Trigger” because of his quick release and deadly accuracy from long range.
Kenney’s role on the 1952 team cannot be understated. His effectiveness from long distance meant defenses had to respect the Jayhawk outside game and couldn’t solely focus on stopping Lovellette in the middle. Kenney was named an All-Big Seven performer and a Helms Foundation 2nd Team All-American in 1952. He was also chosen as one of seven members of the 1952 University of Kansas team to represent the United States at the Helsinki Olympic Games.
Kenney played in all but one game of the Olympics and, yet again, was second on the team in points per contest where he averaged nearly eleven points against the best players in the world.
He had a knack for performing his best on the biggest stage. Not only did he drop a dozen points in the 1952 NCAA championship game, but stepped up again at the Olympics, scoring fourteen points in the first match-up against the U.S.S.R. in a blow-out U.S. win. Kenney scored six of the American’s thirty-six points in the rematch against the Soviets in the gold medal game.
Following the Olympics, Kenney continued his playing career as a member of the 1954 U.S. Air Force national championship squad. He also was a member of the 1954 All-Service national championship team, the 1955 U.S. Pan America championship team, and a member of the AAU Wichita Vickers team from 1955 to 1957. Kenney is an inductee of the University of Kansas Athletics Hall of Fame.