Coaches from West Point tried to recruit Lyons to run track, but he shunned their offer because of a misunderstanding.
“I said, ‘I’m sorry, I want to go to college,’” said Lyons, who then equated service academies with enlisting. “That’s what I told the recruiters. They probably laughed all the way back to their offices.
“Had I only known...”
There’s little Lyons, who has become the most notable patriarch of Air Force basketball, doesn’t know about service academy sports now. On Saturday, he’ll watch his youngest son, Trevor, complete his home career for the Falcons and close a chapter for the family that has spanned a decade.
Trevor will leave among Air Force’s all-time leaders in assists, steals and games played. His career immediately followed Michael Lyons Jr., who was a first-team All-Mountain West selection and the No. 4 all-time leading scorer in program history.
Counting their time at the prep school, the Lyons brothers – both 1,000-point scorers, making them the only brothers to reach that feat for the same school in Mountain West history – have played basketball on academy grounds for each of the past 10 seasons.
“It’s going to very, very different not having a Lyons around,” coach Dave Pilipovich said.
The foundation for the success of the Lyons brothers was clearly laid by parents who both served in the ROTC (Michael Sr. joined as sophomore in college and served for nearly three decades). In addition to seeing Michael Jr. and Trevor off to Air Force, Michael and Reba Lyons sent their daughter as a basketball player to Old Dominion. Dr. Letitia Lyons later attended Meharry Medical College.
For Trevor, whose only other offer came from Army, the expectations at Air Force were never entirely fair as he followed the footsteps of a brother who was one of the greatest Falcons to ever play.
He wasn't compared to others who barely squeaked into the Division I level, but one of the best to wear the uniform.
“He’s really had a great career and he’s really worked hard to get to the point where he’s at now, making his own name,” said Michael Jr., who averaged 17.7 points as a senior and has played in the NBA's developmental league. “I think he’s done that. He’s a fiery player. He’s got a lot more grit than I had. He’s just a tough guy. I think his name will stick around the program for a while.
“Honestly, I think he’s a better player. To be honest. All around. Hopefully one day he’ll be able to prove it even more if he’s able to play after his commitment if he chooses to go that route.”
Pilipovich agrees with Michael’s assessment of Trevor, who has started at least 18 games in each of his four seasons.
“I think he exceeded any expectations,” Pilipovich said. “You look at it, his name is going to be in our record book in many different categories, more than Michael. Michael will have the upper hand in scoring, but you look at his assists and games played, steals and all those things. Trevor is in there more than Michael.”
Asked for his career highlights, Trevor pointed to victories at the Mountain West Tournament as a freshman and junior.
However, he never fully dropped the chip on his shoulder that came from being overlooked by even the small schools in his native Virginia.
“I wish I would have got some more notoriety around there,” Lyons said. “Everything happens for a reason. I ended up at a great institution. I’m going to have a job after this. So I’m happy.”
The Lyons family has long been a fixture at games. Michael Sr. flies in for nearly every home game, while Michael Jr. has mostly been stationed in Colorado Springs, first at the prep school and then at Peterson Air Force Base.
When the curtain falls on Trevor’s career, it will be closing two eras linked by the same last name.
“I don’t even have the words for what this place has done for both of them,” Michael Sr. said. “It’s instilled structure in both of them. Academically, it’s done well for them. But not just for the five-year commitment that they have, but beyond that.”
As Michael Sr. and Jr., talked about the close of Trevor’s career in the stands at Clune Arena after a game, Michael III toddled around in the seats between them – suggesting this era may not be ending, but rather taking a hiatus for 15 years or so.
“We’ve got another one coming up,” Michael Jr. said.
Air Force basketball will surely welcome the next member of this family with open arms when he arrives. And the family will understand fully what such an offer would entail.