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Men’s basketball cites improved defense as key to winning season

Despite being predicted to finish 7th in the Summit League preseason polls, the men’s basketball team has a healthy level of confidence about the upcoming season.

The team, which won its Saturday exhibition opener against Ottawa 88-56, returns four starters from last season, including last season’s second leading scorer, junior Trinity Hall, who averaged 10 points per game.

“My expectations for myself are to do better than I did last year,” Hall said.

Hall said he needs to help pick up the scoring slack for Reggie Chamberlain, who finished his last UMKC season averaging 17.3 points per game.

“I know we got to fill Reggie’s shoes,” Hall said.

This year’s team also has more depth, with five new players and redshirt freshman Trevor Franklin returning after missing last season due to an injury.

Another key player will be junior Kirk Korver, who is finally getting to play his natural forward position after injuries forced him to play center part of last season.

“I cannot tell you how happy I am about that,” Korver said.  “I have been undersized my whole career and now I finally get to play forward. I get to shoot more, I get to handle the ball more, and I’m really excited about this year. I’ve been here a long time, and we haven’t really had a lot of great seasons. But we got a lot of new guys, we got a lot more athleticism, and we got more height. I expect us to get better and better as the season goes on.”

Head Coach Matt Brown, who is entering his sixth season, knows his team needs to fix its defense and has labeled it as one of the team’s goals for the season.

“Our goal for right now is on the defensive end,” Brown said. “We need to get better in rebounding and our man-to-man defense. Right now, it’s one practice and one game at a time.”

Senior guard/forward Thomas Staton knows that defense will be the key to the team’s goal of not only winning the Summit League Tournament, but also getting into the NCAA Tournament.

“We definitely have the talent to do it,” Staton said. “If we can come together on our defense… we could always score. So if we do that, we should be right at the top.”

Starting point guard Estan Tyler had a solid freshman campaign and led the team in assists, averaging 3 per game. Tyler and his teammates suggest that if he elevates his game even further, they will be closer to their goals for the season.

“I need to be more of a vocal leader,” Tyler said. “I need to direct everybody around the court and be that leader.”

Brown is excited and has high expectations for his team.

“Our goal is win the Summit League regular season and conference tournament,” Brown said.

The Roos open their regular season at Seton Hall in New Jersey on Nov. 9.

trushing@unews.com

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