National Oklahoma City Douglass High School Alumni Association

P.O. Box 1891, Oklahoma City, OK 73101-1891

2014 Class 4A State Basketball Champions
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Comment by Douglass Alumni Association on March 16, 2014 at 12:02am

Kendal Cudjoe takes on tasks of upholding Douglass tradition, family legacy

YUKON – Kendal Cudjoe played in all sorts of high-stakes games back in the day. Rivalry games in the glory days of Oklahoma City high school basketball. State tournament games in basketball. Even a state championship game in football.

But Thursday afternoon was his debut at state as a coach.

“I’m glad it’s behind me,” the first-year Douglass boys coach said after a 75-66 victory against Tulsa McLain.

He laughed, a bead of sweat threatening to drop off his chin and onto his orange sweater vest.

So, it was a little nerve wracking?

“A whole lot of nerve wracking.”

Everyone assumes it’s the teenagers in the short pants who are the most nervous at state. But Cudjoe is a reminder that the players aren’t the only ones who will have their hearts in their throats and their stomachs in their shoes this weekend.

He is carrying on not only the Trojan tradition but also a family legacy.

Cudjoe is a Douglass alum, the quarterback of the 1976 state championship team and a standout on several basketball teams that went to state. When he got into coaching after a lengthy stint as a college referee – knee problems forced him to give up officiating – returning to his alma mater became his goal.

“I think every player would like to do that if they could,” he said. “It’s pretty special.”

And it was made even more special for Cudjoe because his late father, Lawrence, is the godfather of Trojan basketball, creating a powerhouse and having his name on the gym’s court at Douglass.

When the boys basketball job at Douglass came open last year, Cudjoe jumped at the opportunity. He took over a program that had won four consecutive state titles. Expectations were high to continue that run. But all but one of the starters graduated, and Cudjoe was the program’s third coach in three seasons.

There were tough times and rough patches, but the players insist the transition was made easier by Cudjoe’s roots.

“He’s from where we’re from — the pride of the east side,” swingman Trey Sanders said.

Point guard Antonio Wilson said: “Coach Cudjoe, he’s graduated from here so we can relate to him. He’s a great guy. He’s a great coach. He’s just great.”

Cudjoe emphasizes the Douglass tradition at every opportunity. He decorated his office with mementos from yesteryear. He has a collage of photos. He even has a couple of bricks from one of the walls that was near the basketball locker room in the old gym.

Cudjoe wants his players to see those things, but he also wants the reminder of the tradition and pride for himself. He never wants to lose the sense of wonder that he has about being the coach at Douglass.

“I think about it every day,” he said.

So, given the chance to coach his alma mater, the power that his dad built, for the first time at state on Thursday, Cudjoe was understandably nervous. But he kept his team calm when McLain forced a bunch of turnovers and took a one-point halftime lead. He went to a zone defense in the third quarter — his dad always said to keep a zone defense in your back pocket — and built a lead as big as 14 points. He put the ball in his steadiest hands down the stretch and won going away.

Now, Douglass moves on to the semifinals.

“It might be more nerves,” Cudjoe said.

A chance at a state title looms. A basketball tradition is on the line. A family legacy is, too.

Bring on the butterflies.

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