A small grin appeared on my face when I read the lead prep roundup item in Wednesday's Daily Post.
It had nothing to do with Region 7-AAAAA boys basketball frontrunner North Gwinnett losing -- I like Zach Smith and his team just fine. It was simply nice to see the Duluth boys earn a well-deserved upset victory, a bright spot for a program that has needed a lift for years.
The 62-46 victory, by a surprisingly large margin, doesn't mean the Wildcats have arrived yet, but they're on the right track under first-year head coach Eddie Hood.
Duluth's 6-14 record may not be that impressive, but it is considering that Hood's first season as a varsity head coach got off to a 1-9 start. He's righted the ship since, even winning three games in tough 7-AAAAA, most notably the upset of North. It was the program's first win over North Gwinnett in more than a decade.
Other milestones have happened over the course of the season, too. One of the biggest came over the holiday break in December, when the Wildcats won three games in a row for the first time in five years. Three-game winning streaks don't spark excitement in a lot of places, but for Duluth boys basketball it's a big deal.
It wasn't always this way.
Longtime head coach Joe Marelle, whose name adorns the Wildcats' gym, had strong teams for years. But his 1999-2000 team is the last Duluth squad to post a winning record. No team since has won more than eight games in a season. Two teams finished winless.
Previous boys coach Jonathan Hemingway made positive strides with eight-win seasons in 2008-09 and 2009-10, and now Hood has a goal of returning Duluth to its glory days. The 30-year-old was hired last April by Duluth athletic director Bill Navas, who took a chance on the least experienced of his three finalists for the job.
"I was just moved by the energy, the enthusiasm and the excitement Eddie Hood brings to the table," Navas said at the time.
His decision has paid off already.
Hood, a 2000 South Gwinnett grad, made his name athletically as a track star, first in high school and then on scholarship at Campbell University (N.C.). His love for basketball never ceased, though, so he spent his post-college days learning the sport with some top-notch coaches and teams.
He was an assistant coach for three state playoff teams at Newton from 2004-2008, worked two seasons at Shiloh and then coached last season with David Allen at Central Gwinnett.
That experience, coupled with his energy and positive attitude, got him ready for his first head coaching job.
His first season at Duluth hasn't always been smooth, but the bright spots have made up for it.
And after Tuesday night, I'm probably not the only one smiling about the Wildcats' progress.
Will Hammock can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock. For Hammock's blog, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willsworld.