Hurricane devastation hits home for UMBC hoops

CATONSVILLE, Md. (WMAR) - K.J. Maura's feet may be on the floor in Catonsville but his mind is on his family in his native San Juan.

"Right now they don't have no power, no water. So, we're kind of in survival mode," said the UMBC guard. "They're hanging in there, they're safe. That's what matters. But things are really bad right now."

Hurricane Maria tore through Maura's city in Puerto Rico a couple months ago. It left his family without a home.

"It was pretty scary. We're kind of fighting through right now. So, we're going to come back," he said.

And while his family back home fights to regain some sort of normalcy, it's Maura's basketball family that helped him during the storm and continues to help him now.

"They kept me close. They kept me united with them in every activity. They let me use their phone when I needed to call my family all the time. They actually cooked for me sometimes because I was feeling down. It was really supportive to me," said Maura.

"It's a tragic situation but he's in good hands here. So, his parents certainly can sleep well at night," said UMBC Head Coach Ryan Odom.

Maura and the Retrievers are back on campus from a two game season-opening trip to SMU and Arizona. Both games were losses. 

Odom is back for a second season and expects bigger things for his squad after posting 21-wins in 2016-17. That was the second-most victories in the 30 year NCAA Division I history of the program.

"I'm excited to kind of see what they can do. I think we've improved defensively. We still got a ways to go. Offensively we're just kind of rounding into form," said Odom.

"We can play with anybody, any conference. We just got to play hard all game," said UMBC guard Jairus Lyles.

UMBC tips-off the home portion of their schedule when they host Central Penn Thursday night at 7:00 p.m.

Follow Shawn Stepner on Twitter @StepnerABC2 and Facebook

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