Growing up in Colorado Springs, Taylor Broekhuis watched the Air Force men’s basketball program climb to unprecedented heights.

When he was a sophomore at Colorado Springs Christian, the Falcons reached the NCAA Tournament. The following season (2006-07) they won 26 games and – for a time – were ranked among the top 15 teams in the country.

“I kind of grew up watching them play,” said Broekhuis, a 6-foot-10 freshman forward/center at the academy. “And when they were really good with Tim Anderson and (Jacob) Burtschi and Nick (Welch) and all them, I watched quite a few games.”

The Falcons’ success helped Broekhuis, an all-state high school player, choose the academy.

“It kind of helped me realize that you can be at a top team in the nation, pretty much in my backyard,” he said.

Air Force has slipped considerably from the days when it could count itself among the nation’s best squads. Heading into Saturday afternoon’s game at Utah, the Falcons have lost 20 consecutive Mountain West Conference regular-season contests – a league record – including an 0-4 start this season.

Yet Broekhuis remains optimistic. He notes that practices have been “spirited” of late and that while injuries have taken their toll, they also have given the Falcons a chance to fast-forward to their future.

Broekhuis has started the Falcons’ past two games along with freshman guards Todd Fletcher and Michael Lyons. Another freshman, Mike Fitzgerald, is tied for the team lead in scoring in conference games with 7.8 points per contest.

They aren’t used to losing. Broekhuis led Colorado Springs Christian to the 2008 3A state title game, and most of the other freshmen hail from successful high school programs. Broekhuis hopes that soon the Falcons will be able to win games like the teams he used to watch.

“It’s always disappointing to lose games,” he said. “But I see a future where we have the players and we have the system where we can get back to that level.”