The men’s basketball team is continuing its efforts to advance to the next level. The Kangaroos, led by head coach Kareem Richardson, will play four power conference teams before the first of the year.
Last season the Kangaroos finished 14-19 overall and 8-6 in the Western Athletic Conference. Guard Martez Harrison was the Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year and is the WAC coaches’ selection to repeat that honor.
“He’s the heart and soul of our team,” Richardson said at the WAC Basketball Preview in Las Vegas, Nev. The preseason WAC Media poll ranking UMKC third in the conference doesn’t mean a whole lot to the team.
“You got to get it done during the year,” Richardson said. A lot can change before the conference schedule begins in January.
Playing against four power conference opponents in November and December could give the Kangaroos the edge they need.
“It will get us prepared,” Richardson said. “Tough non-con. It’s a tough task to go into those places and come out with a win. It will get us prepared as long as, win or lose, we keep learning and growing.”
The season begins Friday Nov. 13 at Big Ten opponent, University of Minnesota.
“Anytime you can go up against a Big Ten opponent, a power conference school like that, there’s a lot of excitement,” Richardson said.
The other power conference opponents are the University of Iowa Hawkeyes, Dec. 5, the Louisville Cardinals Dec. 22 and the Oklahoma State Cowboys Dec. 29.
Besides Martez Harrison, the team is expecting big things from a healthy Shayok Shayok. Shayok battled injuries last season and did not play the conference schedule. Transfer LaVell Boyd,a Junior College All-American, is another player who should contribute. Richardson also sees potential in junior college transfer Dashawn King.
“He’s got really good size for being at the guard position,” Richardson said. “Tremendous athlete, tremendous competitor.”
There’s also a buzz surrounding the improvements to Municipal Auditorium, where UMKC will play all of their home games. The floor has been resurfaced to include the Kansas City skyline. The first official home game is Sunday, Nov. 15, against William Jewell.