He played four seasons of basketball for Cal, making stops at some of the country's most storied arenas, including UCLA's Pauley Pavilion and Kansas University's Allen Fieldhouse.

He played seven seasons as a professional overseas, stationed primarily in England but with side trips to Bulgaria, Russia, Macedonia, Ukraine, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, Japan and France.

These days, Randy Duck is happiest in the 2,000-square-foot San Ramon gym he has dubbed "Hoop House," a no-frills facility where he teaches youngsters the fundamentals of the game.

"This is what I've always wanted to do," Duck said. "This is where I came from. I came from, 'Go to the gym, work out, play all day, play all night.' This is my sanctuary."

Even for a guy who played alongside Jason Kidd during his freshman season at Cal, went to the NCAA Tournament three times in four years and scored 1,000 career points by the end of his senior season in 1996-97, the past couple of months have been pretty good for Duck.

The 34-year-old Danville resident was married Sept. 12, just weeks after he opened the doors to Hoop House.

Duck said he has been working toward this for years. It was in the back of his mind during his final pro season of 2003-04 in Brighton, England, where he honed a range of skills, serving as player, coach and general manager at the same time. His ambitions crystallized in recent years, during a stint coaching basketball for 24 Hour Fitness and while privately tutoring young players.

"I was doing it kind of out of the back of my truck," Duck said. "Wherever there was a hoop, I'd train kids."

At one point, dreaming big, he put together an $11 million business proposal for a slick facility that he quickly realized wasn't feasible.

Instead, he teaches the game in an atmosphere that is closer to an old-time boxing gym than to a fancy athletic club. There are four baskets — one at each end of the floor and one on each side — but the court itself is less than regulation size. He has all the necessary equipment but no frills.

"This gym — there's no heat, there's no air, there's nothing. It's a gym," Duck said of his facility, which is sandwiched between an auto body shop and a towing company. "We don't have towel service. We don't have massage service. You come here and you work out and you get better."

Danville resident Martin Martino said that has been the experience of his son, James, a 14-year-old freshman at Monte Vista High who began working with Duck as a seventh-grader.

"I'm very impressed," Martino said. "He is a leader, a great role model and one of the few coaches I've seen that can get out on the floor and still do it with the kids. The guy has got his act together."

San Ramon's John Eckermann also is a fan. Duck has trained his son, 13-year-old Matthew, since the fourth grade.

"Randy does a very good job of not trying to extend children beyond what they're capable of doing," Eckermann said, adding that he is pleased his son is developing an appreciation for responsibility that can be useful beyond sports. "Randy's done a heck of a lot more than just, 'Let me help you with your dribbling.'"

Footwork, passing, ballhandling and shooting are the basketball fundamentals Duck stresses, but he tries to do more.

"I just have so many childhood memories of being in the gym and having a positive person there to bounce things off of, to support me," said Duck, a native of Garland, Texas. "I can see them grow, and I find little pieces of myself in each one of the kids I work with, and I try to become that mentor to them."

Duck enjoyed a full range of experience during his playing days.

As a freshman, playing in a game at Kansas, he made the mistake of standing over and glaring down at a Jayhawks player whose shot he had just blocked. The Allen Fieldhouse crowd booed him and chanted, "Quack, quack" each time he touched the ball after that.

"They did more than just that," Duck said. "I had grandmothers cursing me out."

Three years later, as a senior at Cal, he was matched against North Carolina's Vince Carter and outscored the future NBA all-star, 15-14, in the Golden Bears' NCAA Tournament regional semifinal loss.

Duck understood he wasn't prime NBA material, but he fashioned a satisfying career in Europe. He scored 49 points in a game for Brighton against a French club and says he filled up three passports visiting nearby countries.

"When I was in England and we had a couple days off, I'd just go," he said. "I can't ever put a tag on that."

Now Duck is home, and he said his current experience is equally priceless.

"I couldn't be happier with how it's turned out," he said.

RANDY DUCK
  • AGE: 34
  • RESIDENCE: Danville
  • OCCUPATION: Owner-operator of the Hoop House (www.thehoophouse.com), a San Ramon gym where Duck teaches basketball fundamentals, primarily to kids ages 7 through 18.
  • FAMILY: Wife Bonnie, stepsons Jake, 11, and Maddox, 6.
  • EDUCATION: Attended UC Berkeley