It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Sid Tomes emerged as an offensive playmaker for Air Force.
It’s just surprising that it came all at once.
Tomes averaged 23 points in high school in Woodbury, Minn., and was a key player last year at the prep school, moving to point guard for the first time where he averaged about 12 points and 6.5 rebounds.
He had knocked on the door long enough in practice that coach Dave Pilipovich made a move this past Saturday, inserting Tomes into the Falcons’ starting lineup. On Wednesday, Tomes didn’t start but had an offensive explosion with 18 points.
The four 3-pointers Tomes hit Wednesday matched the season total he had entering the game. He missed his first attempt, then hit the next three.
“I feel like I’m a good shooter, so I’m going to keep shooting,” Tomes said. “shoot the ball well in practice. If I miss one I’m not going to let that bother me.”
Coach Dave Pilipovich liked what he saw from Tomes in terms of demeanor, which he felt led to the breakout game.
“His composure, his body language, his bounce to him; that was good,” Pilipovich said. “That was positive.”
For Tomes to earn this opportunity as a freshman was unlikely. Air Force entered the season unusually deep at guard with Zach Kocur, Trevor Lyons, C.J. Siples and Jacob Van each returning starting experience. But as the team’s slump continued the coaching staff decided it was time to give others a chance.
Enter Tomes, who chose Air Force largely because it was his only Division I offer.
In addition to his scoring ability, Tomes – listed at 6-foot-4, 204 pounds – is the tallest and thickest option in the Falcons’ backcourt. I’ve heard it said he’s a big enough defender to keep ball handlers in front of him, which isn’t something the team always has at that spot.
“He’s going to do amazing things for this program,” senior Hayden Graham said. “I love Sid. He’s in my squad. Super happy for him. He needed one of those games. Maybe we didn’t win, but this will maybe instill some confidence in him that he can play at this level.”
Tomes entered Air Force with only limited military background – both grandfathers had served in the Army – but it was clear from both from our conversation and past interviews with other publications that he’s proud of what he’s achieved in earning a spot at the academy. And as the oldest of three siblings (a sister and a brother, both of whom play basketball), he wants to set and maintain a high standard.
“I know they really look up to me,” Tomes told his hometown Woodbury Bulletin last year. “I want to continue to make them proud and set the example for them.”
Graham’s frustrating night
Hayden Graham had 10 points midway through the first half on Wednesday, but he also had three fouls.
It was that kind of night for the senior. He was clearly “on,” but the fouls kept him out.
“I was going to go for 35 tonight. I was feeling good,” said Graham, who scored 14 points in 21 minutes. “I didn’t plan on missing, really.”
Playing time dwindles
The shift in lineups and playing time, with freshmen like Tomes, Caleb Morris and Ryan Swan gaining more minutes, had to come at the expense of somebody.
So far the pair that has seen its time shrink the most are Ryan Manning, who has played just six total minutes over the past two games, and C.J. Siples, who hasn’t played at all in that span.
Jacob Van, who returned to the starting lineup on Wednesday after not starting at Boise State, played just 39 minutes over the past two games after previously averaging 30 minutes per game.
“We’re not giving up on our veterans by any means,” Pilipovich said.
Rare blowout at Clune
It’s not often that Air Force loses by 19 points in Clune Arena, as it did in the 78-59 setback on Wednesday. That is, against anybody but Nevada.
This is the second straight year that Nevada has come to Air Force and won by 19 or more, making Wolf Pack coach Eric Musselman 2-for-2 in that regard.
The last time that happened against anyone else was a blowout loss to San Diego State two years ago.