Joe Kikuchi, coach of the Keppel High girls’ basketball team, is as easy going a guy as you’re going to find. But there’s just one thing: He knows how to turn these otherwise inexperience high school players into dominant forces on the prep basketball scene.
So, what’s the secret?
“It’s the hard work all the girls put in, the great coaching staff,” Kikuchi said.
But there’s more.
“It is just a tradition,” he said. “When the kids come in they are part of a tradition. They know they have to work hard to keep up with what’s happened in the past.”
Kikuchi said he has the team working hard whether or not it currently is basketball season.
“Working hard means it’s year-round,” Kikuchi said. “We play year-round. And it’s not just coming to practice and shooting around and sitting around and stuff like that. But they really work hard on their fundamentals, on their shooting. And they condition, too. They work hard on their running. “
With conditioning being the backbone of the program, Kikuchi said that’s how you win basketball games.
“You put that all together, condition, being in better condition than the other team, being good skill wise,” he said. Then we put together a good game plan and that’s the recipe for success.”
And while the Aztecs tend to blow out opponents, Kikuchi won’t let that go to anyone’s head.
“It’s been a roller coaster ride, but we’ve been popping back up,” he said. “We’re doing OK.”
He added while this year’s squad isn’t the best talent-wise he’s ever coached, he said they still do a lot of things right.
“They’re young and they’re not as athletic as I’ve had in the past,” Kikuchi said. “But they work hard. They do what they’re supposed to do. And we get the job done that way.”
And while he doesn’t know how this season will turn out with the CIF Southern Section playoffs fast approaching, he said next year the team will be even stronger with all-but-one player returning.
“Hopefully, next year we’ll come back all healthy,” he said. “And if we come back healthy everybody else will have to watch out.”