Signs of a new beginning for UMKC basketball were obvious as a recent practice wound down.
First, there were 17 Kangaroos scrimmaging or watching, the product of a large recruiting class that included transfers who won’t be eligible to play until next season.
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There were new coaches, led by Kareem Richardson, barking instructions with interim athletic director Carla Wilson looking on.
After practice, coaches and players met with reporters, standing in front of a banner that included the name of the Kangaroos’ new home, the Western Athletic Conference.
“There’s just a whole new vibe,” senior forward Trinty Hall said.
Which was precisely the intent when the school changed coaches, leagues, and even its home floor for this season.
UMKC will return to Municipal Auditorium for the bulk of its schedule, beginning with Friday’s exhibition game against neighboring Rockhurst. Tip-off is 7:05 p.m.
The Kangaroos will open the regular season at home on Nov. 8 against Emporia State.
There will be one game in the old home on campus, Swinney Recreation Center, and the final two home games will be played at the Independence Events Center.
The ’Roos, who have played the last three seasons mostly on campus, will move into a Municipal Auditorium with improvements that total $5 million, costs that were split between the university and city.
The upgrades: new LED video boards and scorer’s table, sound system, lighting, electrical upgrades and seating in the lower levels with chairbacks with arm rests and cup holders.
“For me, it will be like déjà vu,” said guard Frank Williams, Jr., a transfer from Indian Hills Community College who played at Raytown High School. “We played some high school games there. So, it will be like going home.”
But newness also brings some complications.
There aren’t many regulars on the team’s schedule. UMKC will be playing eight opponents for the first time, including five in the WAC. The Kangaroos won’t be able to rely on muscle memory for most games. No more Western Illinois, Oral Roberts or IUPUI.
“Most of the season, it’s going to have to be about what we do because we don’t know about many of the teams, especially in the conference,” Hall said.
But that won’t stop the Kangaroos from rolling up their sleeves.
“We take our scouting very seriously, and it will be in-depth,” Richardson said. “I don’t know much about Rockhurst today we will know much more.”
That becomes important when a team decides matchups and what types of presses might be effective.
And that’s another new element of the Kangaroos: defensive pressure that, if applied successfully, will lead to up-tempo offense.
“It’s going to be a more aggressive team and we’re going to a good conditioned team,” Hall said. “It’s just going to be a whole new style.”