Coming off a 7-19 campaign in 2007-2008, the Grambling State men’s basketball program looks to get back into Southwestern Athletic Conference contention.Just like the women’s program, the men welcome a new basketball coach, Rick Duckett. Duckett comes to Grambling via South Carolina, where he had served as an assistant coach since 2001. During his coaching career he has amassed a 148-81 record (75-32 at Fayetteville State and 73-19 at Winston-Salem State.)
In his eight seasons as a head coach, he earned the Central Intercollegiate Athletic tournament coaches award and was the NCAA Division two South Atlantic Coach of the Year in 1999.
Duckett faces a difficult task getting the Grambling program back into championship contention. The basketball program, once a proud program, has been irrelevant for a long time.
Since legendary GSU basketball coach Fred Hobby retired in 1986, the basketball program has only had five winning seasons and the highest number of games the team has won is 16 games, also the program has had at least 10 or more losses since 1981.
While Duckett has enjoy three 20-win seasons in eight years, Grambling has only had three 20-win seasons in the last 37 years.
The Winston-Salem, N.C., native never played basketball at his alma mater at University of North Carolina, but he has learned the game from some of the biggest names in college basketball. At UNC, he worked under legendary coach Dean Smith and current UNC coach Roy Williams.
Duckett recalls his experience with Williams.
“Roy was a fun and easy-going guy. However he was a competitor,” said Duckett.
During his time at Winston-Salem State, he was mentored under Clarence “Big House” Gaines. According to Duckett, Gaines taught him how to recruit and get the most out of his players.
The types of athletes Duckett likes to recruit are athletes with very long arms, who are athletic, who can create offense with their defense, and who have good savvy.
As the season approaches, Duckett has worries, especially about depth. “We’ve got a lot of holes to fill on the perimeter and in the inside,” Duckett said.
The coach also said his team can compete if they play defense and rebound the basketball.
Duckett also went on to elaborate about the depth problem, saying the only thing he and his staff can do is recruit players and do the best the with athletes they have.
Duckett has a plan for turning around a team, that lost 11 straight games en route to winning only seven games last season. The coach said you must have an environment where people value winning and also you must practice winning every day.
Duckett likes to play transition basketball on the offensive side of the ball, and on defense he likes to press and play man-to-man. But because of his team’s lack of depth, he will change things around.
Returning players from Grambling are Andrew Priestly and Jamal Breaux, the people Duckett is relying on to lead the team. He is also looking for returning players to contribute.
GSU starts the season on Nov. 18 as they host Louisiana Tech. Following that game, they will face Oklahoma State and Moorehead State. Grambling’s schedule also includes LSU, Tulane and Denver.
The team will begin SWAC play on Jan. 3 against Alabama A&M.
Duckett feels the team will be successful because his players will be committed to winning and will play together as a team.
He hopes people in the Grambling community will come out and support his team, and says that they will be worth watching.
The Nov. 18 GSU-Tech game will start at 7 p.m. in the Assembly Center.