There was one.
In all of Class A boys basketball this past season, only one player averaged a double-double.
And it wasn’t even close to there being a second.
Grand Island Senior High’s Them Koang averaged 19.1 points (ninth highest in the class) and 10.3 rebounds per game.
He averaged 2.2 rebounds more per game than the next highest collectors off the glass, Omaha Benson’s Denim Johnson and Lincoln North Star’s Donovan Williams.
And Koang’s success didn’t come by accident.
“The biggest thing was that he changed his habits and changed how we prepared for the season,” Islanders coach Jeremiah Slough said. “He’s always been able to play well when the lights are turned on. But how he worked when people weren’t watching was the biggest change.”
For his performance while leading Grand Island Senior High to a regular season Heartland Athletic Conference title, Koang has been selected as the Independent’s All-Heartland Super Squad honorary captain.
He is joined by teammate Isaac Traudt, Grand Island Central Catholic’s Russ Martinez and Hastings High duo Connor Creech and Haggan Hilgendorf.
Koang helped lead the Islanders to a nine-game winning streak — the program’s longest since it won eight in a row in 2007-08 — which was snapped with an overtime loss to Omaha Creighton Prep in a district final.
“Our season was really great,” Koang said. “It was one of the best seasons we’ve had in years. It was very inspirational. Looking back, I enjoyed this basketball season.”
Koang said he had plenty of motivation to step up his work habits and his game for his senior year.
“My mom wants to see me succeed,” he said. “I have a good support system.
“And A lot of young kids in Grand Island look up to us. It’s important to play well and be good role models for them.”
Slough said he respects that Koang has overcome some tough times in his personal life that other high school athletes don’t have to face and still excelled.
And that happened on both ends of the court. While Koang’s ability to mix in dunks and mid-range shots made him a threat on the offensive end, he was also a more complete player on the defensive side this season.
“We’ve always asked him to protect the rim,” Slough said. “But he had a better understanding of our defensive concepts. His basketball IQ is so high that he knows not only his job, but he understands the entire concept and what everybody else is supposed to be doing.”
Now Koang is ready to take his game to the next level. He committed after the season to play at Western Nebraska Community College.
There are plenty of Central Nebraska connections to the program. WNCC head coach Cory Fehringer was a teammate of Slough’s at Hastings College.
They were coached there by Lance Creech, whose son Connor will be joining Koang at WNCC.
And Koang and Connor Creech have been long-time friends.
“It’ll be fun to play with Connor,” Koang said. “We’ve been friends since we played together in the Junior Islander program. It was great to see the season that he had, and it was exciting when I got an offer (at WNCC) too.”
While there are some similarities to the style of play at Western Nebraska, Koang knows there will be challenges adjusting to the junior college game. He’ll need to expand his game even further and continue to use his work ethic to improve.
Slough expects to see Koang thrive at the next level.
“He has really good work habits,” he said. “He has changed those so much, and Coach Fehringer focuses on good habit. He’ll be at home there.”