The basketball players on the Mark Keppel High boys’ basketball team are not playing on scholarship. They haven’t transferred over from other schools. But they keep winning. And coach Hung Duong likes to think it just comes down to good old-fashioned hard work.
“We’re a system program,” Duong said. “The kids have bought into the system. We come in as freshmen and we work on a lot of fundamentals, the stuff we expect them to carry over when they become juniors and seniors. The kids bought in. The morale is good and the atmosphere is great. If they want to play they got to work hard. If they don’t then they’re not going to make the team. That’s the bottom line.”
Now in his 13th year at the helm of the Aztecs, Duong’s squad has captured its fourth straight Almont League title, compiling a record of 22-4 as of Feb. 11. He said his players have really come through.
“These past few years the kids have stepped it up,” he said. “The last couple years we’ve been in a rebuilding mode. But this year we had some kids with some leadership experience, a couple years of varsity experience. This year I’ve expected more than I have the last couple of years.”
He added with the postseason coming up the team has already met its main objective.
“This year our goal as always is to win the Almont League championship,” Duong said. “We accomplished that. The second goal is to get to (CIF Southern Section playoffs) and advance in CIF and see how far we can go.”
Building a successful program means working on the sport no matter what season it is. And Duong said his players have been doing that.
“It’s pretty much a year-round program,” he said. “We come down and I open up the gym a couple hours at night, giving them a place to work out and work on their game a little bit. And that’s after our season.”
He added, however, he is only as successful as his players allow him to be.
“They’ve got to be committed,” Duong said. “They’ve got to be serious about basketball. They’ve got to work on their own game outside of basketball, whether it is their own skill or it’s conditioning and getting stronger physically.”
And this year’s squad has been very successful, no matter how you look at it, Duong said.
“I’m extremely proud of this group this year,” he said. “To have won 22 games this year is unexpected. I expect a lot from this group, but that’s a bit unexpected. That’s a credit to them. When you put in the work you’re going to get the results.”