Patrick B. McGuigan, editor
OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahomans named Cudjo have a long and distinguished lineage in state history, with stellar achievements in education and other fields. Although Cudjos have notable niches in every corner of achievement, members of Clan Cudjo would likely not disagree if observers conclude the most significant benchmarks have come in the sports world.
This year is no exception. A total of five squads in the Oklahoma City Public School system will contend for basketball championships this week.
Two of those teams are coached by men named Cudjo.
Lance Cudjo guided the Star Spencer Bobcats boys team into the Class 3A tournament with a season-long run of solid round-ball proficiency. At Bethany’s Southern Nazarene University, the 19-6 team compete Thursday night at 8:30 p.m., taking on Metro Christian (Tulsa) on the storied Sawyer Center court.
In an interview with The City Sentinel, the Star Spencer coach said he needed to assure his players “eat the proper foods and get plenty of rest” in these days before the tourney.
He and his coaches need “a good game plan, and of course assure we have well-scouted our opponents.” He seeks to “put together a game plan that collates with how the other team is playing.”
Key wins in this strong season, he believes, were a 77-73 regular season win over Douglass, then an upset triumph over Centennial, 60-51, in the Area finals last week.
After serving as assistant coach at Douglass (where his uncle built the program) for more than a decade, he took on the top job at Star.
Coach Lance hopes his team can battle into Saturday’s championship game.
If the Bobcats win Thursday night, they will face the victor of the Sequoyah-Kingston game on Friday.
As for the Trojans of Frederick A. Douglass High School, playing for Coach Kendal Cudjo in east Oklahoma City, they come from a school with one of the most successful basketball histories in Oklahoma, having garnered many championships over the years.
Coach Kendal said his lads will “stick with our our regular routine” to prepare for the tournament’s opener. As he put it succinctly, “Do the things we like to do and that we do well. Do what we’ve been doing all along.”
Asked to designate the two key wins of the season, he reflected the victory over Purcell in the regional finals was “our biggest game of the year. That was a three-point game down to the wire.” Played just days later, the Area Championship game triumph over Kingston, by 51-45 “would be right up there, too.”
A proud member of the extended Cudjo family, Coach Kendal remembers the role his forebears have played in state history. “Lawrence Cudjoe, my father, built the program and tradition at Douglass” – also in this year’s title competition, as sketched above.
Asked about the odds for a Cudjo vs. Cudgo title game on Saturday, he observed, “To get to the finals we have two games against two really good teams. If I’ve learned anything in the tournament it is that anything can happen — and it likely will.”
The Trojans will battle Okmulgee High School at 2 p.m. Thursday in the Southern Nazarene University Sawyer Center. If they clear that hurdle, the Douglass team will go against the victor in the Centennial vs. Lincoln Christian game.
The Class 3A tournament will move to “The Big House” – State Fair Arena — for the 2 p.m. championship game on Saturday.