2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • Parker Wins Top Honor at Men’s Basketball Banquet

    Sat, April 10, 2010 by admin with 1 comment

    Air Force senior forward/center Grant Parker received the Bob Spear Award – the men’s basketball program’s top honor – at tonight’s banquet.

    The Spear Award is given to the student athlete that is outstanding in all areas of the academy – academics, athletics and military performance.

    Parker, who led the Falcons in scoring during the 2009-10 season with 12.7 points, shared the team’s Most Valuable Player honor with junior guard Evan Washington, the only Falcon to start all 31 games this season.

    Seniors Mike McLain and Avery Merriex shared the Falcon Award, given to the players that give 100 percent regardless of their situation and place on the team.

  • Saturday Morning Links

    Sat, March 13, 2010 by admin with 5 comments

    Greetings from Washington, DC.

    I didn’t get a links post up yesterday because of internet troubles/traveling. So here’s my story on the Air Force men’s basketball team’s 75-69 loss to New Mexico on Thursday in the Mountain West Conference Tournament quarterfinals. The Falcons played well – especially a pair of freshmen guards, Michael Lyons and Todd Fletcher. Both really came of age in the MWC Tournament.

    I wrote for today’s edition of The Gazette about the momentum and positive feelings the Air Force men’s basketball team should carry into the offseason. And, how, unfortunately, the Falcons carried a bunch of momentum and optimism into last season’s offseason (and, obviously, didn’t carry it through to 2009-10).

    But could things be different next year? I explore.

    One thing I didn’t fit in the article was an interesting comment from junior guard Evan Washington. He was asked what Air Force had to do to return to the winning ways of 2003-07.

    “You know, I think it’s just gonna be a mindset,” Washington said. “When I was a freshman, when I was at the prep school, you know, everybody here had a mindset that you don’t lose, especially at home,” he said. “That’s going to be something that we have to get back. We started to develop towards the end of the year. When times got tough, we would persevere through it. We wanted to win. We had the mindset we were in the game to win, not to lose. I think we’re just going to have to get that back for the future.”

    Switching to the ice, Air Force defeated Army, 3-0, at Cadet Ice Arena last night in the first game of their best-of-three Atlantic hockey Association quarterfinal series. As Brian Gomez points out in the linked article, the Falcons know how to win in the postseason. That and a hot goalie (Andrew Volkening) could make for another run deep into the postseason.

  • Tuesday Morning Links

    Tue, March 9, 2010 by admin with no comments

    A few links before heading to Vegas for the Mountain West Conference men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.

    Both the Air Force men’s and women’s teams are hoping to change their recent fortunes at the tournaments in Vegas. But that’s a real long shot.

    The MWC released its all-league teams yesterday. For the second season in a row, the Air Force men’s team was the only one of nine in the league not to place a player on the first, second or third team. But I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise. Junior guard Evan Washington was an honorable mention selection.

    Also, The Gazette’s Frank Schwab took a look at how various coaches in the area game plan and prepare for opponents. It’s a good read.

    I’ll be back with some posts from Vegas later today.

  • Air Force Mostly Absent from All-MWC

    Mon, March 8, 2010 by admin with no comments

    For the second season in a row, Air Force was the only program in the nine-team Mountain West Conference not to have a player make first-, second- or third-team All-MWC.

    Evan Washington was the only Falcon to earn any recognition. The junior guard, who ranked second in the league in minutes per game (33.9) and averaged 10.4 points and a team-high 4.7 rebounds this season, was an honorable mention selection.

    The league’s coaches and selected members of the media vote for the teams and submit ballots with 15 players (five on each team).

    Prior to last season, Air Force had placed at least one player on the first, second or third teams for seven consecutive seasons.

    First Team
    G Jimmer Fredette (BYU, Jr.)
    G Tre’Von Willis (UNLV, Jr.)
    G Dairese Gary (New Mexico, Jr.)
    G/F Darington Hobson (New Mexico, Jr.)
    F Kawhi Leonard (San Diego State, Fr.)

    Second Team
    G Ronnie Moss (TCU, Soph.)
    G Jackson Emery (BYU, Jr.)
    F Andy Ogide (Colorado State, Jr.)
    F Roman Martinez (New Mexico, Sr.)
    F Malcolm Thomas (San Diego State, Jr.)

    Third Team
    G Tyler Haws (BYU, Fr.)
    G Desmar Jackson (Wyoming, Fr.)
    G Carlon Brown (Utah, Jr.)
    G/F Chace Stanback (UNLV, So.)
    G/F Jonathan Tavernari (BYU, Sr.)

    Honorable Mention
    Jr. G Evan Washington (Air Force), So. G Phillip McDonald (New Mexico), Jr. G D.J. Gay (San Diego State), Jr. F Billy White (San Diego State), Sr. F/C Zvonko Buljan (TCU), So. G Oscar Bellfield (UNLV), Sr. G Luka Drca (Utah), Fr. G Marshall Henderson (Utah).

    All-Defensive Team
    G Jackson Emery (BYU, Jr.)
    G Dairese Gary (New Mexico, Jr.)
    G Tre’Von Willis (UNLV, Jr.)
    G/F Chace Stanback (UNLV, Soph.)
    C David Foster (Utah, Soph.)

    Player of the Year
    G Darington Hobson (New Mexico, Jr.)

    Defensive Player of the Year
    C David Foster (Utah, Soph.)

    Freshman of the Year
    F Kawhi Leonard (San Diego State, Fr.)

    Newcomer of the Year
    G Darington Hobson (New Mexico, Jr.)

    Sixth Man of the Year
    F Jonathan Tavernari (BYU, Sr.)

    Coach of the Year
    Steve Alford (New Mexico)

  • Wyoming 58, Air Force 49 – Rapid Reaction

    Wed, March 3, 2010 by admin with 1 comment

    When Grant Parker was a freshman, Air Force won 26 games and reached the semifinals of the National Invitation Tournament. The Falcons, for a time, were ranked No. 11 in the coaches’ Top 25.

    Now, just three years later, Air Force will finish in the Mountain West Conference cellar for the second season in a row.

    Could anyone have imagined such a drastic fall from grace? Parker certainly couldn’t have.

    “No,” he said. “You don’t really picture that happening. But at the same time, stuff happens and you’ve just got to try to move on and look to the (Mountain West Conference) tournament, I guess. It’s really tough because we’ve played really well at times this season, but collectively, overall, we haven’t really played as well as we would have liked.”

    Air Force ended last season with a smidge of a positive feeling, staying close in games at UNLV and BYU and then beating Colorado State in the MWC Tournament play-in game before finishing the season with a noble loss to the Cougars in the tournament quarterfinals.

    The Falcons will need a major turnaround in Saturday’s regular season finale and the MWC Tournament to take any positive feeling into this offseason. Because right now, the Falcons don’t seem to be getting any better.

    Other Notes:
    -Air Force pulled to within one point of Wyoming – 48-47 – after Tom Fow hit a jumper and then Evan Washington hit a 3-pointer with 2:40 to play.

    But things unraveled after that.

    So I asked Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds after the game how disappointed he was that his team didn’t execute so well on the possessions after Washington’s 3.

    “Well, what do you call, ‘not executing?’” he asked.

    Here were Air Force’s three possessions after Washington’s 3-pointer: Forced, air-balled 3-pointer as the shot clock was about to expire. Turnover. Turnover. I’d call that not executing.

    “We missed two layups, too,” Reynolds said.

    I told him I was talking about the three possessions following Washington’s 3.

    “Well, we wouldn’t have been in that situation if we’d made those shots prior,” Reynolds said. “And that’s frustrating.”

    -Air Force out-rebounded the Cowboys, 28-25. It was the first time in conference play the Falcons out-rebounded an opponent.

    -Freshman Michael Lyons continues to struggle from 3-point range. He missed all four of his attempts from beyond the 3-point arc and is now 1-for-16 from 3 in his last four games. Lyons also had five turnovers in 36 minutes tonight.

    -Shawn Hempsey started six games last season and played in 12 others. But he has barely sniffed the floor lately. He logged his sixth DNP-Coach’s Decision in MWC play on Tuesday night.

  • Utah 54, Air Force 43 – Rapid Reaction

    Thu, February 25, 2010 by admin with no comments

    I posed the following question this morning on the blog:

    Was the Air Force men’s basketball team’s performance in a 59-56 loss at New Mexico on Saturday truly a step in the right direction or just a one-game anomaly?

    Looks a lot like the latter after tonight’s contest.

    Some of the problems that have plagued Air Force throughout the season were problems again tonight. For instance:

    -3-point shooting: Air Force went 2-of-17, including 0-of-6 in the second half.

    -Free throw shooting: Air Force went 5-of-12. Really?

    -Rebounding: While this is somewhat excusable, considering the Utes’ overall size, a 30-18 deficit on the boards never is good.

    -Defense: “We came out in the second half knowing what they were going to do and wasn’t able to defend it,” Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds said.

    “I thought we didn’t make some mature decisions defensively on our closeouts. And then we didn’t rotate over and help on the drives.”

    Something else that stood out to me: This team – maybe because of all the losing – doesn’t have a killer instinct.

    The Falcons totally controlled a first half in which Utah was dreadful, making nine turnovers and appearing totally confused by Air Force’s defense. But when the teams went to halftime, they were tied at 19. For as seemingly well as the Falcons played (and as poorly as the Utes played), they had no lead to show for it.

    Other notes:
    -Air Force seemed to lack some urgency late in the game. Down about 10 with less than five minutes to play, the Falcons mostly sat back and allowed the Utes to bleed time off the clock before attempting to score.

    So I asked Reynolds after the game if he thought Air Force was too passive defensively in the closing few minutes, eschewing a pressing style.

    “We extended our defense in the half court, and we had told them who to foul in the huddle,” Reynolds said. “We didn’t want to intentionally foul, and they did a nice job of keeping the ball away from their poor free throw shooters. Maybe we should have extended our press a little bit more when it was around three minutes.”

    -Yes, the officials blew the call on Mike McLain that negated the Evan Washington dunk that would have cut Utah’s lead to two with 10:55 left. Yes, it was a momentum-swinging call. No, it doesn’t excuse Utah following it with a 13-2 run

    -Between the incredibly slow pace of the game and all the empty seats, there was a weird atmosphere at Clune tonight.

  • New Mexico 59, Air Force 56 – Rapid Reaction

    Sat, February 20, 2010 by admin with 4 comments

    Talk to players and coaches after a close loss and you’ll typically hear them say they don’t believe in moral victories.

    I get it. There shouldn’t be any such thing.

    This was a moral victory for Air Force.

    After getting humiliated last week at BYU in a 43-point loss – the third-worst in program history – the Falcons peeled themselves off the concrete (albeit with an entire week to practice) and came to play this afternoon.

    At The Pit, arguably the toughest venue in the league (and perhaps beyond), the Falcons took the No. 12 team in the nation, one that carried a 10-game winning streak into the contest, down to the wire.

    Senior forward/center Grant Parker told me earlier this week that last week’s loss to BYU was a wake-up call. Parker always is honest and open, so I had no reason to believe he was just talking in clichés. But in addition to wondering why a team would need a wake-up call three-quarters of the way through the season, I also wondered if the Falcons would heed said wake-up call.

    They did.

    And that’s great.

    More important is whether they’ll build on what happened today.

    Other Notes:
    -Something that’s been a problem all season was evident once again on Saturday afternoon:

    Too many times – way too many times – Air Force appeared rattled and unprepared to make a play as the shot clock wound down.

    In the first half, Air Force committed a pair of shot clock violations (the clock expired with the ball in a player’s hands) and forced a pair of contested, rushed shots as the clock was about to expire (a 3-pointer by Derek Brooks and a mid-range jumper by Taylor Stewart). Two other times Avery Merriex travelled with less than five seconds on the clock.

    And on Air Force’s last possession of the first half, the Falcons basically did nothing until the clock was under :10 and then cleared out for Evan Washington. (He drove and missed a pull-up jumper just before the buzzer.)

    In the second half I counted four more forced shots just before the shot clock expired. And I wasn’t counting “good” shots that were taken in rhythm off good passes.

    Now, I understand that Air Force wants to use a lot of the shot clock to shorten games – and that’s the right strategy for a team as offensively challenged as the Falcons.

    But there has to be better recognition of the time on the clock so that there’s a better play than force-it-up-before-the-buzzer.

    -If you love college basketball, you had to love this afternoon’s game.

    It’s pretty easy to get cynical when you watch games for a living. But I gotta admit the hair on the back of my neck was standing up in the last minute.

    -Sign in the Lobo student section “Curling more exciting than AFA basketball.”

    I watched some curling the other day. And I have to say … give me about four or five days on the ice, and I think I could make a run at the Olympic team. After years upon years of playing shuffleboard in dimly-lit bars, curling doesn’t seem like it’d be that tough.

    -Speaking of the student section, the crowd in general was fantastic at The Pit. It lifted a struggling team and always seemed to crescendo at the right moments. Reminded me of when Clune Arena was alive.

    -One travel note:

    Is there any way we can stop flight attendants from saying, “This is the last and final call for flight …. ?”

    Is it confusing to just leave it at the “last call?” Or “final call?”

    I mean, when they get ready to stop serving drinks at my bar up the street, they announce that it’s “last call for alcohol.” Folks seem to be able to figure that out. And most of them are drunk.

    Were people missing flights because they figured, “Well, it’s the final boarding call for my flight. But I don’t think it’s the last call for it. I’ll head back to the concourse and buy a $4 bottle of water and a book for twice as much as I could buy it for at a bookstore outside the airport. I’m not going to the gate until it’s the last and final call for boarding.”

    I don’t think that happened. Otherwise, Regis Philbin would ask for a contestant’s “last and final answer.” Right?

    Thanks for listening.

  • Colorado State 51, Air Force 47 – Rapid Reaction

    Wed, February 10, 2010 by admin with 7 comments

    “Tonight we learned how to find a way to win.”
    -Colorado State coach Tim Miles

    “The difference in the game was we just couldn’t put the ball in the basket the second half. We had open shots.”
    -Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds

    Those were brief excerpts from tonight’s post-game interviews. And I think – in tandem – they help explain tonight’s result.

    We’ll start with Reynolds’ quote. Yes, Air Force couldn’t put the ball in the basket in the second half. After making 10-of-23 shots (43.5 percent) from the floor before halftime, the Falcons made just 4-of-22 shots (18.2 percent) after halftime.

    But part of that, I think, has to do with the fact that Air Force has not yet – to use Miles’ quote – learned how to find a way to win. If they knew how to find a way to win, maybe they knock down one of the open looks they had down the stretch. Maybe they get to the free throw line one more time. Maybe they avoid a careless turnover. Maybe they get one extra stop.

    The Falcons have dropped 26 of 28 games against MWC foes the last two seasons (including the tournament). And during that time they’ve found numerous ways to lose. But they haven’t learned how to win.

    And, unfortunately, there’s no crash course, no Cliff’s Notes for this. There’s no way to learn how to win except by winning.

    Other notes/thoughts:
    -It was really brutal to watch Air Force unravel.

    Seems like most times a team comes from behind to win a game, it makes a decisive run. Colorado State, however, just chipped away and chipped away as the Falcons became unable to score.

    -A quick note on the Falcons’ last possession with a chance to tie:

    Down 50-47, Air Force forces a missed shot by Colorado State (and a subsequent 35-second violation) and then calls timeout with 27.3 seconds left.

    Reynolds said he wanted to try to get a quick 2-point bucket. But that’s not what happened. The Falcons moved the ball around the perimeter and eventually settled for a contested 3-point shot by Evan Washington that missed.

    “Three freshmen, I think, were on the floor that last play, and we really wanted to drive the ball there because we had [27] seconds,” Reynolds said. “We knew they wouldn’t foul us, and we went a little brain dead.”

    -A potential rivalry in the making: Air Force’s Todd Fletcher vs. Colorado State’s Dorian Green.

    Both freshman point guards already are running their respective teams. Both have plenty of upside and moxie. And both should be playing in the MWC for the next three years. It will be fun to watch them go head-to-head the next few seasons.

    -Reynolds praised freshmen Michael Lyons (seven points and four rebounds but four turnovers) and Taylor Broekhuis (seven points, three rebounds), who played 28 and 23 minutes, respectively, though “they’ve been really sick.”

    -Kudos also to senior forward/center Grant Parker, who scored a game-high 13 points despite playing with a sore left shoulder. Parker’s left arm popped out of and back into its socket during Monday’s practice.

    -Washington matched a career-high with eight rebounds but missed 10-of-13 shots from the floor, including all four of his 3-point attempts.

  • Monday Morning Links

    Mon, February 1, 2010 by admin with no comments

    Air Force junior guard Evan Washington has put together as good a stretch in conference play as he’s had in his career during the last couple weeks.

    I write about Washington, his improved free throw shooting and his recent stretch in this article in today’s edition of The Gazette.

    Also, here’s an article on San Diego State guard D.J. Gay. The Falcons play at San Diego State tomorrow night.

  • Sunday Morning Links

    Sun, January 31, 2010 by admin with 1 comment

    Air Force snapped its 22-game losing streak in Mountain West Conference regular season games yesterday, beating Wyoming, 70-63. Junior guard Evan Washington led the way with a career-high 23 points, seven assists and just one turnover. Freshman guard Michael Lyons also chipped in with a nice game.

    Here is the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle’s account of the game and the Casper Star-Tribune’s account.

    My “Rapid Reaction” to the game is in the post below, and David Ramsey – living up to the nickname I gave him, “Mr. Positive” – writes that yesterday was a day of hope for the men’s hoops program. And not only because of what happened at Clune Arena.

    (The women’s hoops program, meanwhile, experienced yet another day of despair. The Lady Falcons were torched by Wyoming, 98-37, on Saturday. That’s right, 98-37. Ninety-eight to thirty-seven.)

    Switching to ice hockey, Air Force skated to a 3-3 tie at Army Saturday.