Basketball Season Preview: Air Force

Senior forward Evan Parker (AF photo)

Air Force senior forward Grant Parker (Air Force photo)

It’s not all about football here at After Action. We’ll give equal attention to the hard court. And unless no one has noticed, each one of the service academy basketball teams have already tipped off their seasons. This week we’ll take a look at each one and preview their upcoming seasons.

We will start with Air Force.

Last season the wheels fell off for Coach Jeff Reynold’s club. It ended the season on a 17-game losing streak before the Falcons shocked the entire Mountain West Conference by beating Colorado State in the first round of the conference tournament.

This will be a telling third season for Reynolds as the former assistant coach took over the program that Jeff Bzdelik left to coach at the University of Colorado. Bzdelik had led the Falcons to the NCAA Tournament in 2006 and the NIT semifinals in 2007. Air Force was hoping Reynolds could keep the program rolling, but it has been in decline ever since. In his first year the team fell to .500 in the conference and last year it went 0-16 in Mountain West play.

Reynolds now has a full-blown rebuilding project on his hands. The Falcons will experience a youth movement as they lose their top three scorers and more than 50 percent of their offensive output from last year’s team. Not to say that’s necessarily a bad thing when you go winless in conference play, although it also means the other players didn’t have the chops to earn playing time.

The Falcons do return guard Evan Washington and forward Grant Parker, who each averaged six points per game last year. Parker, who stands 6 feet 8 inches, has an effective long range shot for a big guy. He shot 48 percent from behind the 3-point line last year and exploded for a career high 26 points in this year’s season opener against Western State.

Where the Falcons need to make the greatest strides though are on the boards. The team gave up 290 offensive rebounds last year while collecting only 211 of their own. Academy teams are typically at a height disadvantage due to the difficulties of recruiting blue chip players, but rebounding has to become a mindset on this team.

Help down low, though, could be on the way. Freshman Taylor Broekhuis, a 6-10 center, and a Colorado Springs, Col., native, averaged 17.3 points, 11.5 rebounds and 4.9 blocks in his senior year of high school. Another Reynolds recruit, 6-7 freshman forward Zach Bohannon, comes to the Academy after averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds in high school.

However, this year will prove to be another tough one for the Falcons as they face another stiff conference schedule playing the likes of BYU, San Diego State and UNLV. If Reynolds wants to keep his job, though, he can’t go another season without a conference win and he has to show the athletic department he’s making progress with the team. Although it’s difficult, Bzdelik showed how to take a service academy team to the Big Dance. Reynolds needs to heed those lessons.

Predicted finish: 11-16 (3-13)

Team MVP: Grant Parker

Bold prediction: The Falcons are looking for a new coach at the end of the season. (Update: As Lt. Col. Robert Callihan pointed out in an email the AD did give Reynolds an extension after winning that one conference game last season. However, if there is not a turnaround, AD Hans Meuh is going to look pretty foolish for doing that and when you make your boss look bad, that’s never a good thing.)


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