'He's a worker': Matt Luce's Wapahani roots lead to 300 wins

·5 min read

SELMA, Ind. — Wapahani's gymnasium was the perfect place it could happen.

Matt Luce on Friday earned his 300th career victory and 250th with Raiders boys basketball, a milestone fittingly celebrated in the place he's called home for the last 15 years.

The game itself, a 71-42 win over Randolph Southern, wasn't particularly memorable, yet the final buzzer sent the crowd into championship-like celebration. Luce's entire family shared No. 300 together, remembering the journey as the community showed its appreciation with applause, signs and rocking pep band tunes.

"When I look back I think of my family, I think of my wife, Marie, and I think of all the kids that I've been lucky enough to be around and have a small influence on their life," Luce said. "Before the game, I was reflecting and looking at our pictures on the wall ... I'm lucky to have the job that I do and have a community that cares about kids and cares about athletics and basketball, and doing things right."

Wapahani boys basketball head coach Matt Luce celebrated his 300th career win at Wapahani High School on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022.
Wapahani boys basketball head coach Matt Luce celebrated his 300th career win at Wapahani High School on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022.

Luce and his family live and breath Wapahani athletics. His family's ties to Selma stretch far beyond just the last 15 years, too, as his parents graduated Selma High School in 1963 and his dad started the area's youth basketball program.

Luce is also the school's athletic director, a Raider to the core, and just as Luce has influenced so many young players' lives, Wapahani has shaped his own family's world.

He's even more proud that his oldest son, Drew, and freshman son Nate have both contributed to some of the team's many wins.

"My son Drew was 1 year old when my wife and I won our first game ... and now Nate and Megan and Emily, my twins, and Lauren, that's all they've ever known. They've known me as the coach and we attend games on Friday night, that's what we do, they go to dad's games," Luce said. "It's about shaping lives ... over the last 15 years I've been able to grow as a person and as a coach and raise my family. We live here, we live in the community and all five of my kids will be Wapahani graduates and I'm proud of that."

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Wapahani (11-3) hasn't had a losing season and have won four sectional and Delaware County titles under Luce. Talented players have come through his program just like many others, but a major part of the Raiders' success has been Luce and his staff's dedication to youth development.

300 wins is fun for a night, yet Luce and his staff were up the next morning refereeing junior pro basketball, which been going on for 46 years at Wapahani, and working with kindergarten through fifth graders to teach them the game.

Not only does Wapahani's youth program produce high school-ready players, it also familiarizes the kids with what Raiders basketball is all about. Star sophomore Isaac Andrews said the adjustment to varsity basketball was made easier by already knowing Luce, and the trust factor was established long before the first practice.

"We pride ourselves on a program," Luce said. "We feel like this is Indiana basketball ... It's about small communities coming together on a Friday night, boys and girls, and just enjoying the kids and the way they act."

Wapahani girls basketball coach Scott Hudson, who earned his 300th win on Wednesday, has coached around the state for over 35 years and known Luce for much of his career.

Hudson coached boys prior to joining the Raiders and achieved success both as a player and sideline leader. To him, it's no accident Luce has achieved so much success .

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"I've been different places in the state and coached, and Matt Luce, first of all, is first class. But the boys program at Wapahani is a phenomenal program," Hudson said. "It's better than 95% of programs in the state of Indiana, at all levels. He's a worker. It's really just an honor to be able to work with him, and I love watching their team play."

The two are good friends, and Luce's daughter Lauren plays for Hudson, so sharing their 300th wins in the same week has been a special experience.

"There's very few schools in the state of Indiana that have two 300-win coaches together," Luce said. "I think it'll be a memory that we share forever."

Wapahani head coach Matt Luce coaching against Blue River during their game at Wapahani High School Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021.
Wapahani head coach Matt Luce coaching against Blue River during their game at Wapahani High School Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021.

Three men inspired Luce to coach: his father, Brian Dudley and Paul Keller.

Luce's dad coached baseball and basketball for most of his life, as well taught chemistry and math, so Luce has always been around a leader. Dudley and Keller coached Luce in baseball and basketball, respectively, at Wapahani.

All three impacted Luce's life significantly, making him want to do the same for the next generations.

Luce might feel like 300 wins went by fast, but he remembers those seemingly never-ending practices and grind-it-out games as well. He wouldn't trade a minute of it, though, as Wapahani and the Luce family will always be intertwined.

"It's hard to believe I'm 48 years old," Luce said. "It's been a huge part of our lives and our kids lives, and I don't think it works as well without my spouse and wife involved and my kids involved. It means a lot to me that they're here and a part of it."

Wapahani's Matt Luce coaches against Delta during the Delaware County Basketball Tournament at Delta High School Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019.
Wapahani's Matt Luce coaches against Delta during the Delaware County Basketball Tournament at Delta High School Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019.

Gus Martin is a sports reporter at The Star Press. Follow him on Twitter @GusMartin_SP, and contact him at gmartin@gannett.com or 765-729-4742.

This article originally appeared on Muncie Star Press: Luce's Wapahani roots lead to 300th career victory against Blue River

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