Oct. 30, 2002
The Air Force men's basketball team opens its 2002-03 campaign this Sunday, Nov. 3 with an exhibition game against Athletes in Action. Tip-off is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. at Clune Arena. Admission is free.
Air Force concluded the 2001-02 season with an overall record of 9-19 ... The Falcons finished in a tie for seventh in the MWC with Colorado State, both teams posting a 3-11 conference mark ... Air Force lost to Wyoming, 69-67 in overtime, in the first round of the 2002 EAS Mountain West Conference Championships in Las Vegas, Nev.
Head Coach Joe Scott
Joe Scott (Princeton, 1987), begins his third season with the Falcons. He has a 17-40 overall record in his two seasons at Air Force. Scott came to AFA from his alma mater, Princeton, where he was an assistant coach from 1993-2000.
Eight Tourney Teams on Schedule
Eight of Air Force's 20 opponents received a bid to either the NCAA or NIT Tournament last season. Three Mountain West Conference teams made the NCAA field of 65, while three others played in the NIT. Here is a breakdown of this year's opponents in the 2001-02 tournaments.
NCAA - Wyoming, Utah, San Diego State
NIT - Louisville, Tennessee Tech, UNLV, New Mexico, BYU
Second-Best RPI in Nine Years
The Falcons ended the 2001-02 season with an RPI of 198, according to collegeRPI.com. It is the best by an Air Force team since finishing the 1998-99 campaign with a 179 mark, and the second-best in the nine years that college RPI has existed.
Bellairs Reaches Milestone
Tom Bellairs became the 12th player in school history with 500 points and 500 rebounds in a career last season. He has 752 career points and 576 rebounds. Bellairs is tied for 33rd on the school's career scoring list and is seventh in career rebounds. Bellairs posted the 11th and 12th double-doubles of his career during the 2001-02 campaign. He leads all returning Falcons in career points and rebounds.
2001-02 MWC Tournament Recap
Wyoming 69, Air Force 67 ot
March 7, 2002 in Las Vegas, Nev.
Marcus Bailey scored 29 points and had seven rebounds to lead top-seeded Wyoming past eighth-seeded Air Force 69-67 in overtime in the first round of the Mountain West Conference Tournament on Thursday, March 7. Uche Nsonwu-Amadi's free throw with 27 seconds left in overtime made it 68-67. After a turnover by the Falcons, Bailey hit one of two free throws with 12 seconds remaining. The Falcons then missed their two final shots, by Tim Keller with three seconds left, and a tip by Joel Gerlach at the buzzer. With Wyoming trailing 60-57 and four seconds left in regulation, Bailey hit a three-pointer from the top of the key to tie it at 60-60. Air Force's Lamoni Yazzie then missed a 3-point try as regulation ended. Jason Straight added 14 points for the Cowboys while Josh Davis had eight points and 11 rebounds. Tom Bellairs led Air Force with 20 points, while Gerlach added 17 points and six rebounds. The game featured 21 ties and 19 lead changes, and there was never more than a six-point gap between the teams. Air Force was outrebounded 40-23, but went 19-for-20 from the free-throw line. Wyoming went 15-for-27 from the line. With 1:26 left in regulation, the Falcons opened their largest lead of the game at 58-54 on two Gerlach free throws. With 1:13 left, Bailey answered with a right-side jumper from 10 feet. After Air Force's A.J. Kuhle missed a 3-pointer with 39 seconds left, Bailey was fouled and hit one of two free throws with 16 seconds left. Yazzie then hit two free throws with 12 seconds left, putting Air Force up 60-57.
MWC Tournament Scores
Thursday, March 7 - Quarterfinals
Game 1: #1 Wyoming 69, #8 Air Force 67 ot
Game 2: #5 San Diego State 62, #4 BYU 51
Game 3: #2 Utah 69, #7 Colorado State 66
Game 4: #3 UNLV 120, #6 New Mexico 117 2ot
Friday, March 8 - Semifinals
Game 5: #5 San Diego State 70, #1 Wyoming 69
Game 6: #3 UNLV 76, #2 Utah 70
Saturday, March 9 - Final
Game 7: #5 San Diego State 78, #3 UNLV 75
Air Force was 6-12 in games decided by eight points or less last season. Entering conference play, the Falcons were 5-1 in that category, but 11 of their last 12 losses were by eight points or less. In fact, five of those losses were by three points or less. The 47-44 victory over New Mexico on Feb. 4 was the only win decided by eight points or less after a 57-56 win over Northern Arizona on Jan. 2. Nine of the team's 11 MWC losses were by eight points or less. Four of the games were by three points or less and five others were by eight points or less, including OT losses to Wyoming (4) and Utah. The Falcons' two closest defeats of the season were in the final two games, a pair of two-point decisions to San Diego State and Wyoming.
First-Team All-Mountain West
Marcus Bailey, Wyoming
Ruben Douglas, New Mexico
Randy Holcomb, San Diego State
Britton Johnsen, Utah
Dalron Johnson, UNLV
Second-Team All-Mountain West
Marcus Banks, UNLV
Al Faux, San Diego State
Brian Greene, Colorado State
Travis Hansen, BYU
Uche Nsonwu-Amadi, Wyoming
Third-Team All-Mountain West
Eric Chatfield, New Mexico
Josh Davis, Wyoming
Nick Jacobson, Utah
Jeff Johnsen, Utah
Donta Richardson, Wyoming
Honorable Mention: Air Force - Lamoni Yazzie, Tom Bellairs, Joel Gerlach; BYU - Mark Bigelow, Matt Montague, Eric Nielsen; Colorado State - Andy Birley; New Mexico - Patrick Dennehy; San Diego State - Tony Bland; UNLV - Lou Kelly; Utah - Travis Spivey
Player of the Year - Britton Johnsen, Utah
Freshmen of the Year - Jason Straight, Wyoming/Jared Jensen, BYU
Defensive Player of the Year - Marcus Banks, UNLV
Coach of the Year - Steve McClain, Wyoming
Jenkins Climbing Career Lists
Junior guard Vernard Jenkins moved into the No. 6 spot on the school's all-time assist list last season. Entering the 2002-03 campaign, Jenkins has 268 career assists. Jenkins is also No. 5 on the school's list for career steals. He posted a career-high six thefts against Wyoming last season and has 120 in his career.
Air Force has made a 3-point shot in 297 consecutive games. The last time the Falcons failed to make a three-pointer was Dec. 4, 1991 in a 57-51 victory over Adams State College.
2002-03 Season Outlook
As Joe Scott enters his third season as head coach of the Air Force basketball team, there is more promise and excitement about the upcoming season than there has been in a long time at the Academy.
The 2001-02 campaign showed that Air Force can and will be a team to be reckoned with in the Mountain West Conference. The raw numbers may not show it, a 9-19 overall record and 3-11 mark against conference opponents, but a quick look into how close so many of the games were, along with the type of schedule the Falcons played shows the real story. Twelve of their losses were by eight points or less, including five by three points or less, and 11 of their 19 opponents received a bid to either the NCAA or NIT tournament.
Seniors Tom Bellairs and Vernard Jenkins return to the team as co-captains in 2002-03 looking to continue the improvement the team showed a year ago. Bellairs, a 6-7 forward, averaged a career-best 10.3 points per game last season and became the 12th player in school history with 500 points and 500 rebounds. He enters his final season ranked seventh on the school's career rebounding list with 576, and is tied for 33rd with 752 career points. The Denver, Colo., native added two double-doubles to his resume during the season, and now has 12 in his career, tying him for second among MWC returners.
Jenkins returns as the starting point guard after a solid junior campaign. Jenkins, who came off the bench in the first four games of the season, busted into the starting lineup against Montana State and started every game the rest of the way. Jenkins played excellent defense the entire season, finishing fourth in the conference with 46 steals. He is No. 5 on AFA's career steals list with 120, and sixth on the school's all-time assist list with 268.
Junior forward Joel Gerlach was second on the team in scoring and rebounding last year, averaging 11.4 points and 3.4 boards per contest. He found himself in foul trouble throughout the season, and averaged only 30.3 minutes per game, but led the team in field-goal percentage at 53%, good for third in the MWC statistics.
The other returning junior is swingman A.J. Kuhle, who set a school and MWC record by playing 59 minutes before fouling out with less than one minute remaining in the four-overtime thriller against Wyoming. Kuhle was the ironman on the team last season, as he led the squad by averaging 35.1 minutes per game, and played 40.1 minutes per MWC contest. He played every minute in the final eight games of the season, and averaged 8.8 points per contest during the season.
Four sophomores are on the roster this season, led by guard Tim Keller, who started the first four games last year at point guard. Keller, one of the best pure shooters on the squad, averaged 5.6 points per game and was second on the team in 3-point percentage at 40.5% (32-79) as the team's sixth man.
Fellow second-year players David Peterson and Marc Holum gained valuable experience coming off the bench during their freshman campaign. Peterson saw action in 19 games and averaged ust under two points and one rebound per game as Bellairs' back-up in the post. Holum, meanwhile, played in eight games late in the season and scored a career-high five points in his first game as Air Force defeated MWC tournament champion San Diego State at home. Sophomore Caleb Buchanan joins the team this year after spending his freshman campaign on the junior varsity squad.
For the second consecutive year, Scott is excited about the incoming recruiting class, as several newcomers have a chance to see large amounts of playing time. Four players at the top of the list are Nick Welch from Hurst, Texas, J.J. Brull out of San Diego, Calif., Antoine Hood from Oklahoma City, Okla., and Deane Lake from Stephens City, Va.
Welch, a 6-7 forward, was the most valuable player and leading rebounder for the AFA Prep School last season, while Hood, a 6-3 guard, paced the team in scoring by averaging 12.8 points per game.
Brull and Lake, meanwhile, are true freshmen who bring solid credentials to the Falcon team. Brull, a 6-6 forward, was the player of the year for the Palomar league and led Torrey Pines High School to the California Interscholastic League championship. Lake, a 6-10 center, was a McDonald's high school All-America nominee and holds the single-season and career records for blocked shots at Sherando High School.
True freshmen Marcus King (Del City, Okla.) and Jason Boerboom (Richfield, Minn.) will also fight for playing time this season. King was a first-team all-district selection and valedictorian of his high school class, while Boerboom earned second-team all-state honors as a senior.
The Falcons hope to move up in the Mountain West Conference standings with the program's third all-Division I schedule. Air Force opens the season on Saturday, Nov. 23 in Louisville, Ky., against the Cardinals and head coach Rick Pitino. It will mark the first-ever meeting between the two schools.
The Falcons' first home game of the season is Tuesday, Nov. 26 against Stetson University. Following a road trip for games against Arkansas State (Nov. 29) and Tennessee Tech (Dec. 1), Air Force hosts Texas-Pan American on Thursday, Dec. 5. The Falcons defeated Arkansas State at home last season, and lost to Tennessee Tech at Clune Arena and UTPA in overtime on the road.
Air Force opens Mountain West Conference play against MWC tournament champion San Diego State on Saturday, Jan. 11 in Clune Arena, followed by five of its next six games on the road. The Falcons return home to face Colorado State on Saturday, Feb. 15, which will be shown on ESPN Plus, and defending regular-season champ Wyoming on Monday, Feb. 17 as part of ESPN's "Big Monday" package. The nationally televised game is scheduled to start at 10 p.m. Mountain Time.
Air Force plays five of its final seven MWC games at home, including the final three, March 1 against BYU, March 3 versus Utah and a March 8 tilt against New Mexico. The BYU and New Mexico games will be shown on SportsWest.