Air Force freshmen accepting their men's hoop roles

January 21, 2014 Updated: January 21, 2014 at 9:22 pm
Caption +
Air Force forward Nick Jorgensen reaches toward the ceiling as he walks onto the court before the Falcons' game against Jackson State on Nov. 14. Jorgensen and other Falcon freshmen will bide their time to see expanded roles. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

An unintended consequence of Air Force's surprising basketball success is that supporting roles have been easier to accept - particularly for a large freshman class.

Hayden Graham, Nick Jorgensen, Zach Kocur and Darrius Parker played a large part in the nonconference when DeLovell Earls and Kamryn Williams were injured and Justin Hammonds was in the process of returning after leaving the team.

Those players are back, squeezing all but Kocur out of coach Dave Pilipovich's eight-man rotation.

But the players are seeing success. So they're OK.

"I'm all right with it," said Graham, who scored nine or more points in three straight early season games but has made just brief appearances in three conference games. "I'm in no rush. My time is going to come, I promise."

Who knows how the team dynamic might have been different if Air Force (9-8, 3-3 Mountain West) was struggling in the conference, as was expected. At least one publication predicted just one Mountain West victory this season for the program, which has changed out its entire starting lineup.

The way it has turned out, a large junior class and sophomore point guard Tre' Coggins have done the heavy lifting and that freshman class has been allowed to learn the intricacies of the Princeton offense in practice.

"This team is capable of beating any team in the Mountain West any day," Graham said. "We can see that. So I'm not too worried about my playing time. It's going to come."

Next for Air Force is a home game against Wyoming at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The Cowboys were the only team the Falcons swept in the conference last year, though Pilipovich believes they are better this year - even with the loss of the physical Leonard Washington.

"He was very talented individually, but I think their team is a little better," Pilipovich said. "I think their five parts are a little better."

game preview

Wyoming (11-6, 2-2 Mountain West) at Air Force (9-8, 3-3)

7 p.m. Wednesday, Root Sports, 740 AM

Summary: Air Force looks for a victory to take it into an off weekend before facing two of the hottest teams (Boise State and Nevada) on the road next week.

Key stat: 127 - the average number of points scored in Wyoming's games. Air Force's games have averaged 143.4, so coach Dave Pilipovich said extra value will be placed on each possession as he expects the game to be played at slower pace than the Falcons are accustomed to.

Player Air Force must contain: Larry Nance Jr. The son or the former NBA standout is averaging 15.8 points and 9.3 rebounds.

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