The Missouri-Kansas City men's basketball team was not courted for a postseason tournament bid in 1992. But Ronnie Schmitz said the 1991-92 Kangaroos were worthy of the NCAAs or NIT.
The team was the first in UMKC's NCAA Division I era to win 20 games and featured Schmitz and future first-round NBA draft pick Tony Dumas. But the Kangaroos were passed over because they did not play in a conference.
“I don’t think anybody outside the program in Kansas City fully realized the quality of athletes we had,” Schmitz said in 2008. “As an independent, it got to the point where nobody wanted to play us. We were in some ways, too good.”
Marc Bowman's Hall of Fame spotlight for UMKC's web site captures the story of UMKC's greatest season in NCAA Division I, and the sports moment judged the greatest in school history.
When basketball fans talk about a complete team, they are talking about a team like the 1991-92 ’Roos.
It was the first 20-win team in UMKC’s Division I era, finishing 20-8 (21-7 when including the UTPA forfeit), which remains the best mark in school history, and featured three of the best players to ever don a ’Roos jersey: Ronnie Schmitz, David Robinson and first-round NBA draft pick Tony Dumas.
These ’Roos twice beat Texas A&M and also bounced Baylor and Creighton, while facing off against Cincinnati, Oklahoma State, Nebraska and Kansas State.
“It was a good group of guys,” recalled head coach Lee Hunt. “They worked hard and were serious about getting an education. We had a nice balance on this team. We had an inside game and an outside game. You have to have that if you’re going to be successful. We had good balance, good size, good quickness. They all had good attitudes and were driven. They worked hard in practice. That tells a lot. Some players just love the games. They all enjoyed practicing. They all practiced hard and they liked each other which makes a difference. We had very good team chemistry. This was a real good team. I’m real proud of this group.”
“Coach Hunt had the foresight to put that team together,” Robinson said. “We have the same mentality when it comes to basketball. This is what we were taught: the goal of the offense is to have the defense move. That’s why you swing the ball, move the ball, kick it outside. If the defense is moving, if I can relocate the ball to the other side of the court and the defense has to scramble, somebody is open. If you leave someone like Ronnie Schmitz open, he’s deadly.”
The ’91-92 squad set a number of school records, including 49.7% (740-1489) shooting from the floor and 41.5% (148-357) from 3-point range.
“We played in the Cape Girardeau tournament for Thanksgiving and on our way there we had our Thanksgiving dinner at Noah’s Ark off Highway 70 in St. Charles,” recalled Schmitz. “The year before we were in Hawai’i and that year we were at Noah’s Ark; I’ll never forget it. And then we went down there to Cape Girardeau and played a pretty good Nicholls State team and beat them. And in the championship game we played Cleveland State and they were a good team. Everybody thought they were going to win and we beat them. We got to cut down the nets and I really felt like we came together as a team there … despite our trip to Noah’s Ark.”
The ’Roos blocked 11 shots against Nicholls State in that tournament, still a school record, and they later shot 68.9% (42-61) from the floor during a Jan. 9 loss to Southern Cal, a game in which they recorded 30 assists; both are school records.
“My senior year was a culmination of all the work and effort of the administration and campus to have a legitimate D-I program,” Robinson said. “To me that was the most special thing about that. It was a team victory in that we did what everyone wanted to do the first four years. Just like any team, in the NFL, the NBA, baseball, it’s more than one player. It’s an accumulation. We had Ronnie Schmitz and role players like Jeff Spiva. Every team is built with every aspect in mind. I was an inside player. Ronnie was an outside player. (Terry) Dickerson was at point. Dumas’ athleticism took him to the NBA. This was a brand new D-I program and he went to the NBA. We had everything: outside, inside, athleticism.”
“We had a lot of proven scorers,” Schmitz said. “We had a lot of different options on the floor. It was definitely our most balanced attack.”
Robinson shot 63.4% (199-314) from the floor, while Dumas hit half of his three-point attempts (39-78) and Schmitz shot 88.4% from the free-throw line; all three marks are school records, as are Dumas’ 162 made free throws and Robinson’s 45 blocked shots. Robinson also made all 15 of his free-throw attempts against Chicago State, the best mark in school history.
“Everybody on this team knew their role,” Hunt said. “The shooters shoot, the rebounders rebound and the defenders defend. We didn’t turn the ball over very much and tried to get high percentage shots, and had good rebounding, too. We shared the ball. In those days you ran an organized offense. Today teams spread the court and play a lot of one-on-one. We ran patterns and concentrated on getting the ball to the open man.”
Dumas led the ’Roos with 21.5 points-per-game, while Robinson was the leading rebounder at 6.8 rebounds-per-game and the team’s best shot blocker at 1.6 blocks-per-game. Kent Denmon dished out 3.1 assists-per-game, while Schmitz led the team with 2.6 made 3-pointers-per-game.
“We were a close-knit group,” Schmitz said. “The great thing was we all stayed in town that summer before. After being there for three years, that group felt like we put in some good work and we were kind of reaping the benefits. It was definitely something we were all working for.”
“My fondest memory of the ’91-92 season was the camaraderie,” Robinson said. “We were a legitimately successful team. Everybody got along. We were a true basketball team. We had an inside game and an outside game.”
• UMKC Athletics Hall of Fame
On the cover and above: The 1991-92 UMKC men's basketball team. (Courtesy UMKC Athletics)
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