UMKC coach Kareem Richardson waxed nostalgic with standout guard Martez Harrison recently.
“We were talking the other day, we can’t believe this is year four for him,” Richardson said. “We came in together.”
And have grown together — Harrison as a player who has won about every individual honor available, including becoming the first UMKC player to earn All-America recognition, and Richardson as a first-time head coach.
Now, Richardson would like to see Harrison expand his horizon.
“He’s had all the personal accolades,” Richardson said at the Coaches vs Cancer Tipoff. “As a senior there would be nothing better than to see him get some of those team accolades as well as the personal ones. I think we’re right on the cusp of making those types of things happen to him.”
The Kangaroos are coming off a 12-19 season. They’ve reached the WAC Tournament semifinals, marking the first time in a decade they won a league tournament game in consecutive years.
Harrison led the team in scoring for a third straight year and needs 447 points to reach 2,000 in his career. His play has helped defined the Richardson era that had its greatest success in 2015, when the Kangaroos finished second in the WAC and Harrison was chosen conference player of the year.
The idea now is to be the leader of a breakthrough team.
“Stamp yourself a winner, that’s what we’re locked in on,” Richardson said. “Whenever somebody asks me about Martez, that’s what it’s about for him.
“Every team has somebody who will put up stats. We need team success behind his individual stats. And it’s not just Martez. We have six seniors on this team, and it’s not just on Martez’s shoulders.
“But the reality is, it will be looked at like ‘How did Martez finish his career?’ ”
There is talent around Harrison. LaVell Boyd and Dashawn King, the second and third leading scorers from last season, return. It should be Richardson’s best team since arriving in 2013, when he served his final season as an assistant for the Louisville program that won the NCAA title.
UMKC made a commitment to Richardson, signing him to a contract extension through 2021. Now Richardson said it’s time for the program and Harrison to take the next step.