The breakout season that nobody saw

The 2014-15 UMKC men’s basketball team had a good season. After the 10 win and 20 loss season just a year ago, the Roos improved this year not only in record with 14 wins, but also with a much better unit within Head Coach Kareem Richardson’s system. The Roos also had more energizing play both offensively and defensively. This led to the game being more fun to watch and be a part of.

After November’s upset over the Missouri Tigers’ game, and even with the close loss to K-State, the Roos were the talk of the campus. Everybody was proud of the guys, as well as proud to be a part of the blue and gold. But everyone was quick to forget about the squad after a three-game losing streak starting at the Maui Invitational.

While most turned a blind eye to the team at this point, the Roos battled all season. It may not have been the prettiest, but they were able to win some tough games and stake a claim as a top team in the WAC conference. It isn’t just a fluke, and that’s huge. The culture of the team was built and put on display all season as a tight group that trusts each other The Roos had pretty much a whole new squad, but it didn’t matter. Players like Reece Holliday, Deshon Taylor, Thaddeus Smith and Broderick Newbill all brought a certain swagger and toughness that paid dividends to this new team and culture that Richardson is trying to build here in only his second year.

While finishing the season second place in regular season standings and also finishing the WAC tournament as the second seed, which is really impressive, it all went relatively unnoticed amongst the UMKC students. Our own Martez Harrison was named conference player of year after leading the league in scoring with 17.5 ppg, 60 total steals and 129 total assists, while also being named UMKC’s first basketball All-American. Many acted like they realized how much of a big deal this was, but the lack of support truly proved otherwise. He was one of the main reasons why we were only two games away from a NCAA tournament berth, and would’ve gone up against Kansas had we made it. That would’ve brought much conversation and acclaim around campus. I bet then we would’ve wanted to claim our school again for the first time since early November.

Unlike other D1 programs where the athletes are babied and treated like royalty, our guys are accessible to peers without acting all high and mighty. All the students give head nods and handshakes in passing, but where are we when it comes time to really support? Even Richardson, coming from big-time Louisville University, makes himself accessible to the general public, whether it’s interrupting his workout just to say what’s up or playing some pickup games, which he does often with regular students.

The bottom line is we let our guys play in front of a nearly empty house every home game that would be completely empty if it wasn’t for our alumni and staff. Where’s the school spirit? After hearing so many students express displeasure with the university after the Block School rankings issue and how they dropped the ball, when do we step up and do our part to contribute to the university’s well-being? It’s time we step up our game. This team is ours, something that we should be proud of whether win, lose or draw. We represent them just like they represent us.

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