To some coaches, a preseason basketball jamboree is a little more than a means to an end that brings the regular season closer. St. Amant High boys basketball coach Gary Duhe isn’t taking his team’s Thursday jamboree or any other game for granted.

Duhe, who enters the season with a 696-243 career record, was diagnosed with throat cancer in the spring and is now in remission after weeks of chemotherapy and radiation at Houston’s M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

“We’ve had a couple of scrimmages and a Hall of Fame game, and it’s been so humbling,” Duhe said. “I’m happy to be back and to have other coaches and some players come up to wish me well and say they’re glad I’m back means so much.”

Jamborees for teams in Classes 5A to 1A begin locally tonight with girls action at Capitol and St. Joseph’s Academy.

St. Amant, which will host two boys games and two girls games, is one of eight schools hosting jamborees Thursday, giving teams one last tuneup before the regular season begins Monday.

Duhe lost his hair during chemotherapy, but it has grown back. He did lose his appetite and 30 pounds during radiation treatments. But Duhe said his passion for basketball remained strong.

He credits assistants Larry Favorite and Seth Babin for their work with the Gators over the summer. He is gradually assuming a full work load at school.

“It’s great to be back at school and in the gym,” Duhe said. “It’s something I don’t take for granted.

“The other day David Oliver (St. Amant football coach-athletic director) said he can see a difference in me. And it’s true. After going through this, some of the other things that used to bother me don’t any more.”

When asked about his team, Duhe said he expects the Gators to be athletic and fun to watch. He talks about the competitiveness of the new District 5-5A that includes three Ascension Parish schools - SAHS, Dutchtown and East Ascension - along with Woodlawn, Catholic and McKinley.

Duhe is not the only 5-5A coach nearing a milestone. EAHS’ Kenny Almond enters the year at 796-396. Glen Oaks’ Harvey Adger (722-263) and White Castle’s Ronald Johnson (657-242) are other local

coaches with lofty career numbers.

For Duhe, records are not as significant as they once were.

“There’s not a doubt in my mind that going through this has made me a better person,” Duhe said. “I hope I makes me a better basketball coach.”