Lawrence Cudjoe, who built the Douglass Trojans into a state high school basketball power during an 18-season reign (1956-74), died Wednesday morning at age 72 of pneumonia and heart complications.
Cudjoe's twin brother, Lance, also a coach, died 111/2 months ago on Jan. 2. The Cudjoe twins established national reputations as quick, ball-handling guards during their playing days for Seminole Booker T. Washington, Langston University and the Harlem Globetrotters.
After three seasons with the Trotters, Lawrence entered coaching and stayed there until retirement. His first job was to establish a program starting at Pawnee Dunbar. This he did well enough to compile a four-year record of 40-32 and earn a promotion to Oklahoma City Douglass, which through the years had been forced to take a backseat to Tulsa Washington in the OIAA, the black school association.
Lawrence changed that. In his first season (1956), he gave Douglass the state championship. It was the last year of the OIAA, but the Trojans were ready for entry into the OSSAA. They took home the state runner-up trophy in their first try (1957).
Cudjoe's Douglass teams would suffer only one losing season (10-13) during his 18 years, and the second "worst" mark was 19-9.
The OSSAA state championship always eluded Lawrence, but his teams played in 12 state tournaments and three state finals while compiling a 361-115 record.
Every Cudjoe team, except the one loser, finished the season ranked in the top 10 of the state's largest class, 12 wound up in the top five and four were ranked No. 1. The super team was the 1967 unit of Amos Thomas, Michael Reese, Hubert Greenwood, Nathaniel Fowler, Joe Love, Marvin Rich and Lee Gaines, which lost a 74-72 state finals heartbreaker to Bartlesville to finish 22-1.