2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Who is Air Force basketball’s MVP?

Published: March 12, 2014, 3:24 pm, by Brent Briggeman

If you haven’t seen today’s copy of The Gazette, there is a story about Air Force basketball focusing on the team’s ongoing quest to identify a leader.

This goes hand-in-hand with a question I posed last week on Twitter, asking who is this team’s MVP?

Most would agree that Tre’ Coggins is this team’s most talented player – and the team certainly went in the tank during his three-game suspension – but is he the MVP? Coggins leads the team with 15.9 ppg, but he has taken by far the most shots with 325 (Max Yon is second at 282 in three more games). Coggins has 32 steals, most on the team, but even as the point guard he does not lead the way in assists (his 68 trail both Justin Hammonds (96) and Yon (75)) and he has committed the most turnovers (72).

Coggins is the most explosive scorer, but most valuable player? Tough to say.

Kamryn Williams has been the most consistent performer, particularly on the boards, and, on occasion puts up a game like he did against BoiseState on Saturday when he scored 22 points with 13 rebounds. But Williams is a flighty shooter, making just 3 of his past 15 3s and scored five or fewer points in four conference games. He’s a nice player, but the MVP?

Max Yon, the team’s second-leading scorer at 12.9 ppg would have to be in the conversation, and he came through huge in overtime against Boise State with seven points in a key victory. Take away Yon’s ability to get to the basket and Air Force would be a far lesser team, and his 125 attempts from the free-throw line (where he’s a 77.6 percent shooter) are 40 more than the second-best on the team.

Like Eric Decker, Yon is the perfect No. 2 option in an offense. Not many would say he’s the team’s top player, however.

No one else would register in this conversation. Marek Olesinski is the other double-figure scorer at 10.7 ppg, but he’s been absolutely lost over the past few weeks. He is just 1-of-22 from 3-point range over his past five games.

Justin Hammonds showed his value in filling in as point guard during Coggins’ suspension. He provides a lot on defense thanks to his length and quickness, is the team’s No. 2 rebounder and is tied for third all-time in shooting percentage at the school at 54.1 percent (138-for-255). He’s tied with none other than Gregg Popovich.

DeLovell Earls may grow into an MVP candidate next year, but his slow recovery from injury has left him limited this season.

For a team that lacks a true point guard and a clear-cut best player, it’s no wonder that a true leader has emerged.

The good news is that everyone but Chase Kammerer figures to be back next year, barring any decisions to leave the school or Hammonds again temporarily dropping basketball to focus on academics. That’s a lot of time for this group to develop and grow into its roles. And if an obvious MVP doesn’t present himself, well, balance isn’t exactly a terrible thing.