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Leading scorer Tre Coggins, freshman Darrius Parker leaving Air Force basketball program

May 1, 2014 Updated: May 1, 2014 at 8:02 pm
Caption +
Tre' Coggins runs towards a loose ball during the second period against Nevada at Clune Arena on Feb. 21, 2014. Coggins, the Falcons' leading scorer, and freshman center Darrius Parker will not be returning to the Air Force Academy. Photo by Mason Trinca, The Gazette

Tre' Coggins is leaving the Air Force basketball team.

And he's not alone.

The sophomore point guard and leading scorer informed coach Dave Pilipovich that he will seek a transfer rather than return for his junior season, which would automatically trigger a commitment to graduate and serve five years as an officer.

Freshman center Darrius Parker will follow Coggins out of the academy, but Pilipovich said basketball was not a key to either decision.

"You've got to be more into the military part than the athletics part," Pilipovich said, "because that's what we're going to do."

The loss of both players will be a major hit. Coggins averaged 16 points per game last year and was the only freshman or sophomore to earn postseason recognition from the Mountain West, as he was a third-team selection.

Coggins scored 20 or more points eight times his scoring average was the highest for an Air Force sophomore in 27 years. But there were plenty of red flags indicating his stay might be a short one.

He was suspended for three games in the middle of the conference season, with Pilipovich at the time citing concerns that included academics, military and his approach to the basketball team. Coggins said upon returning that the suspension would not impact his decision to stay at the academy, but his posts to a since-deleted Twitter account began to paint a picture of a cadet who was not content.

"We've talked about and had some good conversations about it," Pilipovich said. "I know he's talked about it with his family. He's never been one that has welcomed the military part of it. He's done it, but he's always said it's been a challenge for him."

Coggins participated in just the first week of the Falcons' four-week offseason training session, taking the extra time to ensure he stayed on top of his academic and military requirements.

There was no guarantee that Coggins' performance as a cadet would have been good enough for him to return anyway, but he took any guesswork out of that decision.

"He said, 'I'm not going to wait for someone else to make it. I'm going to transfer,'" Pilipovich said. "He said, 'Coach, I've been fighting this for three years.'"

Coggins has already sent out feelers to schools closer to his home in Southern California, but Pilipovich said no programs had responded as of Thursday morning.

The Falcons did not have a backup point guard on the roster last year, but figure to have options with Mansfield, Texas-native Jacob Van planning to enter directly from high school and with a pair of prep school standouts in C.J. Siples and Trevor Lyons - the younger brother of recent Falcons standout Michael.

Pilipovich could not confirm which players plan to attend the academy, as nominations are not yet official for those at the prep school.

In Parker, the Falcons lose a rare physical presence on the inside. The 6-foot-7 native of Allen, Texas broke into the starting lineup immediately last season before regressing into a backup role. He shot 61.5 percent from the field.

"He's one of the best kids I've been around," Pilipovich said of Parker. "He was going to be a key component, and I told him that. He said, 'I just don't want to be a military guy. I said, I understand.'"

Cameron Michael transferred to Northern Colorado last summer after his freshman year and Justin Hammonds left the team beginning of the school year to concentrate on academics, though he later returned.

Pilipovich said he understood those challenges when he accepted the position.

"It's a different place. It's a great place, but it's different," he said. "If they're not fully to where this is what they want as a career is to be an officer, then maybe they struggle with that and sometimes they struggle even more when they get here because they see what they have to do. As they get closer to that commitment, that third year, it really becomes an issue and a burden if they want to do this or something else. I think that's been the history of the academy, not just in intercollegiate athletics but in cadets in general."

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