The IU Kokomo men’s basketball team has a home gym and a conference affiliation, both firsts for the young program.
The Cougars also enter the new season with a new-look roster.
Coach Jace Thompson returns six players from a 9-21 squad. He has brought in 11 new players, a mix of transfers and freshmen.
“Jared Lawrence and Aaron Knupp are great to have back. This is their third year in the program and they know what we expect every single day. They set great examples. And Spencer Khrin is just a workhorse. It’s nice to be able to return three guys like that,” Thompson said.
“We have six transfers and a lot of those guys are impact guys. We added a lot of athleticism and length. That was our main focus. We also have some guys in our freshman class who will make their marks.”
The NAIA Division II Cougars open their third season Friday with a road game against Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Ill. The home opener is Wednesday against Purdue University Calumet.
Thompson and his players are eager for their chance to host opponents in IUK’s new downtown gym after watching the Cougar volleyball team play in front of supportive crowds.
“They’ve seen and I’ve seen how loud that gym gets during volleyball games. I’m really, really looking forward to teams having to come and play us in that gym because it’s a very loud gym and a very tough environment to play in,” Thompson said.
IUK’s schedule has 13 home games.
The Cougars begin play in the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference on Nov. 12 with a road game against Point Park University.
Thompson points to improved depth and a stronger defense as potential strengths of his squad.
“Last year, one of the things that hurt us the most was our [lack of] depth. This year, there is no doubt about it, depth is going to be part of our strengths. We can go nine or 10 deep on any given night that we need to. And, our athleticisim is going to allow us to play more physical and a pressing-style defense,” he said.