UMKC junior forward Jordan Giles has played in home games at Municipal Auditorium where the visitors seemed to outnumber the home fans.
“It sounded that way,” Giles said, “in our own building.”
He doesn’t expect that to be the case for the Kangaroos this year, at least when Western Athletic Conference play begins. UMKC is returning to campus and Swinney Recreation Center for its conference games beginning with a Jan. 5, 2019, contest.
The Roos hopped back and forth between their campus and the historic downtown arena over the past decade. And they’ll play their non-league games at Municipal this season, starting with a Nov. 21 game against Drake.
UMKC Chancellor C. Mauli Agrawal said the move back to campus was made to help improve the student experience at the university. Upgrades are planned for the building, including video boards in the end zones and an expanded front entrance.
“This move is in keeping with our overall effort to create a culture of belonging here at UMKC,” Mauli said in a statement.
Anything for a home court advantage. Two seasons ago, UMKC defeated Wisconsin-Green Bay in College Basketball Invitational game before a packed house, some 1,500, at Swinney.
“Hopefully we can duplicate the environment we had for that game,” Kangaroos coach Kareem Richardson said. “We want to have that for all eight games we have in here and get the Pouch of Ouch going.”
UMKC returns three starters who were among their top five scorers for a 10-22 team last season. Point guard Xavier Bishop averaged 11.6 points, guard Broderick McKissic 11.1 and Giles 10.2.
The team was picked by WAC coaches to finish seventh out of nine teams, just ahead of California Baptist, which is transitioning to Division I this season.
“I wasn’t surprised, but I was kind of insulted at the same time,” Richardson said. “I know you have to earn your keep, but we have players who have played quality minutes for us.”
Coach Jacie Hoyt begins her second year with a fresh roster. Just two players return who had played in the previous regime.
“You can’t get any more different than it was in Year 1,” said Hoyt, who went 11-19 in her first year as head coach. “With that comes a lot of challenges to build chemistry in a short amount of time.”
The Roos’ top returning scorer is forward Kristen Moore, who averaged 14 points and a team-leading six rebounds. Among the newcomers is Ericka Mattingly, who averaged 14.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists for Butler Community College last season.