When Josh Luedtke was a student-athlete at Creighton Prep, every indication pointed toward following in Tom Jaworski’s coaching footsteps if he decided to make education his profession.
The 1990 graduate was a standout quarterback for the Junior Jays under Jaworski, a Nebraska High School Hall of Fame inductee who retired as Prep’s football coach in 2010 with 343 career victories and nine Class A state titles to his credit.
Luedtke, who never played basketball in high school, went on to be the starting quarterback at Nebraska-Omaha for three seasons in the early 1990s and later played arena football in both Omaha and Lincoln.
It all turned out to be great training for becoming one of the elite high school basketball coaches in the state.
Luedtke is the 2018 Lincoln Journal Star Boys Coach of the Year after guiding Creighton Prep’s basketball team to a 26-1 record and the Class A state title in March. The Junior Jays won their third state championship under Luedtke, who just completed his 16th season as head coach.
“I’ve always played basketball and enjoyed it, so it wasn’t a complete shock that I got into the coaching part of it,” Luedtke said. “I was part of an intramural team with a bunch of football guys called All Star 88, and I played intramurals with the football players at UNO as well. In fact, we used to travel to small towns and play these adult tournaments in the winter. It was a lot of fun.”
Both the football and basketball coach when Luedtke was at Prep — Jaworski and Brother Michael Wilmot, respectively — are former Journal Star coaches of the year. Jaworski earned his honor in 1986, Wilmot in 1976. Wilmot coached at Prep 23 years, led the Jays to two state titles in 10 state tournament appearances and compiled a 341-129 record.
That rich basketball tradition, which includes 13 state championships, has continued under Luedtke. In addition to the three state crowns, the Junior Jays are 288-110 under his guidance with 11 state tournament appearances. They were state runners-up in 2005 and took home third place in 2010.
“Tom (Jaworski) is a great mentor,” Luedtke said. “I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves in not only being a great football coach and teaching the game, but how he helped develop his players away from football and turning them into responsible young men.
“After I got the (basketball coaching) job, I talked at length with him about how to handle certain situations and how to coach at a Jesuit school like Prep. He’s been a huge influence in my life.”
Luedtke says a huge influence on keeping the Prep tradition going has been his assistant coaches, all of whom went to school there. Andy King is the associate head varsity coach and Scott Sibbernsen is an assistant. Nick Thompson coaches the JV team, Eric Thompson is the sophomore coach and Ralph Setter heads up the freshman team.
“Those guys do a great job developing our players at every level and creating the culture we want to have in our program,” Luedtke said.
His first year after graduating from UNO, Luedtke worked for Coors in Denver. When the director of admissions job opened up at Prep in 1996, Luedtke was quick to apply.
He is still the school’s director of admissions.
“Prep had always been like a second home to me, and so many people there had been influential in my life up to that point,” Luedtke said. “Jesuit education and what it entails has always been important to me, and it was something I wanted to be a part of.”
He began coaching at Prep in 2000 as a varsity assistant in football and freshman basketball coach. Luedtke was then the junior varsity basketball coach for two seasons before elevating to the head coaching position for the 2002-03 campaign after Reggie Morris stepped down.
“I was thrown into the fire right away and I had to pick up things on the fly,” Luedtke said. “I did a lot of learning those first couple years as I got my feet wet.”
Luedtke began his coaching career in the school’s original, small “Bird Cage” gym, but since 2009, the Junior Jays have called the Heider Center home, one of the largest high school facilities in the state.
His first two state titles came in 2009 and 2015. The latest, however, had special meaning because his son, 6-foot-5 all-stater Kyle Luedtke, was one of seven seniors on the squad. His son had been around the program almost his entire life, going to practices, making bus rides with the team for road games and hanging out in the locker room when he was an elementary school student.
And through the years, many of Kyle’s teammates this season were around the Luedtke household, “and that really gave this team the feel of a family,” Coach Luedtke said. “They were all like sons to me.”
Kyle Luedtke is following in his father’s footsteps and going to UNO to walk on the Mavericks’ basketball team. Kyle says his father’s approach to the game made it fun to play under him.
“He wants to push the ball and get into transition. That’s the way we all like to play,” Kyle said. “He gives guys freedom to showcase their talent, but still keep it within the team concept.”
Except for a short time after the Metro Holiday tournament when the Junior Jays lost their only game in the semifinals to Omaha Central, Creighton Prep was No. 1 in the ratings. With Lincoln High transfer and standout junior guard Jaylin Hunter eligible after sitting out the NSAA’s mandatory 90 days, the Jays avenged the Central loss with a 15-point win three weeks later on the Eagles’ home floor.
Creighton Prep was 17-0 after Hunter moved into the lineup and junior Thomas Faber, a transfer from Des Moines, Iowa, also became eligible.
Prep had four starters back from a state tournament team in 2017, “and we had to play with that pressure of being a front-runner all season,” Coach Luedtke said. “We also had the challenge of bringing in two new players to an established team, and I was proud of how our guys checked their egos at the door, welcomed them and allowed them to make a seamless transition into our program.”