by John Martellaro // Fall 2013
Basketball fans can look for a ferocious, pressing defense and a speedier style of play when the UMKC Roos take the court for their first season in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC).
If that’s reminiscent of the most recent NCAA tournament, it’s no accident. New head coach Kareem Richardson was an assistant on the Louisville team whose stellar defense helped it win the national title in April.
And while the WAC features a faster, more “athletic” style of play, the biggest change Roo fans will see will be cultural, Richardson said.
“The style of play will be more up-tempo, especially on the defensive end. We’ll be pressing more, trying to create turnovers,” he says. “In the short term, we want to establish our culture of being a defensive-minded team that takes care of the backboards. Over the long term, the goal is to cultivate that culture into conference championships.”
He says he’s hoping to generate an even higher level of alumni passion for the program.
“We’ve added an alum, Spencer Johnson — UMKC’s all-time leading rebounder — to the staff. When you get an alum on staff who has total belief in the program and in the community, that can only help us to create a winning culture, which is what our alumni expect and deserve.”
Several highly touted recruits will be among the new faces next season, including two Kansas City-area players: Frank Williams and Martez Harrison. Both are rated as three-star recruits by rivals.com.
“We do want to keep players with local ties here, and have people in the community recognize the guys out on the floor,” Richardson says. “But ultimately we want the best, highest-character kids we can find, no matter where they come from.”
Coming off a national championship season, Richardson says he intends to lay the groundwork for an NCAA Tournament berth at UMKC. It’s a special feeling he wants to relive and share with the players and fans.
“You hear people talk about a surreal feeling. I never understood what they meant. Now I do,” Richardson says.
And he says he believes a similar feeling can build here.
“There are schools that are not from BCS conferences, but compete at the highest level. They give programs like ours hope.”