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Duke girls basketball coach prepares team for first state tournament in 19 years

(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)

DUKE, OK (KSWO)- A Southwest Oklahoma high school basketball coach is gearing up for his 24th state tournament appearance this weekend.

In the last 40 years, Duke high school's girl's basketball coach Rick Wilson has coached 17 final four teams, 4 state runner ups and won 7 state championships. In fact, he's coached one team in every class in Oklahoma in the state tournament, including Elgin, Sterling, Apache, before Duke.
And he's looking to add another one this weekend at a tournament in Oklahoma City.

Coach Rick Wilson and his team spend hours in the gym everyday working towards the goal of a state title. But, his strategy of getting his team ready is not so much about what they can do on the court or how many baskets they make.

"He helps us out like no matter what, he's just always there, he's just one of those guys," said Kaylee Keck, a freshman Duke basketball player.

Athletic director and principal are just some of Rick Wilson's titles at Duke High School, but the one he's most known for and is coach. Kaylee Keck is just one of the seven girls on his team who has been impacted by his guidance on and off the court.

"He's made me understand how important it is to focus on everything you're doing and how much heart you need to put out on the court or field or whatever you're doing," said Keck.

After more than 40 years of being around the game and coaching high school boys and girls all over Oklahoma, he's getting ready for yet another state tournament with the Duke girls team after only two years of being at the school.

"I've been really fortunate to coach some good players," said Wilson. "You don't win without good players. I haven't scored a point since the 70's, so I'm just along for the ride."

He says his secret is teaching his players character, and how to be a leader so they can carry it off the court and into the work force and life. He says nothing makes him more proud than when he sees them graduate, grow up and be successful.

"Probably one of my best stories was having a player from Elk City call me about four years after she graduated and asked me if I would walk her down the isle during her wedding and you know, that's pretty special," said Wilson.

For senior, Katie Jones, she's waited four years to make it to state and says it was hard road, but worth it. She knows she will be graduating and walking away from basketball as a better person because of the things she learned during the two years she played for Coach Wilson.

"Just to be yourself," said Jones. "Be a better person. Look out for your team, on and off the court, so you're family."

Although Coach Wilson has become a regular at the state tournament, he says each year is just as special because of the girls he coaches. They're hoping to add the first state title banner in 19 years to this gym after the tournament this weekend.

Copyright 2017 KSWO. All rights reserved.

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