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Quite the turnaround for Coggins, Air Force

By: David Ramsey, david.ramsey@gazette.com
December 5, 2013 Updated: December 5, 2013 at 10:57 pm
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photo - Air Force guard Tre' Coggins drives past Jackson State guard Javeres Brent during the second half Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, at Clune Arena on the Air Force Academy.  The Falcons came back to tie the game at 82, but lost 84-82 to the Tigers. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
Air Force guard Tre' Coggins drives past Jackson State guard Javeres Brent during the second half Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, at Clune Arena on the Air Force Academy. The Falcons came back to tie the game at 82, but lost 84-82 to the Tigers. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock) 

It was Sunday afternoon, a day after one of the worst basketball games of Tre' Coggins' life. He was sitting at the Academy Hotel listening to the person on earth who is most interested in the basketball life of Tre' Coggins.

His mother, Robin.

She had watched her son, Air Force's starting point guard, stumble to seven turnovers Saturday in a horror-show loss to Colorado. Robin, a former high school point guard, knows the game.

"You can't do that," Robin said in the intense, loving tone known to mothers everywhere. "You can't have that many turnovers and win the game."

Coggins obeyed his mother, and his Air Force teammates are glad he did.

The Falcons skated perilously close to another horror-show loss Thursday. South Dakota seized an early 13-point lead and looked ready to shoot the Falcons straight out of Clune Arena.

Coggins' steady hand rescued Air Force in the second half, where he scored all 12 of his points. It might sound strange to call a 94-86 victory unsightly, but that's what this win was. Similar efforts will doom the Falcons to a painful ride in the Mountain West.

The Falcons best hope - and most talented player - is Coggins, but he's a complicated mix. A point guard needs to be a bouncy personality, borderline too talkative. Coggins is reserved.

On Tuesday afternoon, coach Dave Pilipovich told Coggins he needed him to become more vocal. Coggins said, sorry, but that's not me.

"I'm not a naturally loud person," Coggins said.

The ideal point guard thinks pass first, shoot second. Coggins struggles with this description, too. He has an explosive first step, and sometimes it's tough for him to relinquish the ball. He knows he can score.

He dropped 35 points on Jackson State, and managed to score 18 against Colorado.

But here's the encouraging part: Coggins embraces Pilipovich's hopes for him. And he's not fighting against his mother's wishes, either.

"Everything she said was true," he said.

Last season, the Falcons earned an 8-8 record in Mountain West play and lost only two games at Clune. This season's team will fail to reach those heights.

But if Coggins and his youthful teammates can mature, this season will not be gruesome. In the second half against South Dakota, Coggins showed a calm restraint. He passed with imagination. He had only one turnover.

Thursday revealed two versions of Air Force's future. In the first half, the Falcons played lethargic defense and hinted that they might not win a game in the Mountain West. In the second, Air Force roared to 62 points and looked prepared for respectability. Much of the hope for the early months of 2014 was sitting on the Air Force bench. Kamryn Williams and DeLovell Earls, both former high school stars in the Springs, are nursing leg injuries. Both are defensive specialists.

"It was a little frustrating," Williams said of watching his teammates defend. "What me and DeLovell take pride in is our defensive capabilities. We plan on bringing a lot to the table with defense."

Williams has a solid idea. Air Force's defensive table was close to bare for much of Thursday's game.

Coggins did not start against South Dakota. He was benched as part of Pilipovich's effort to revive his team after the loss to Colorado. There's no need, though, for Robin to worry about her son returning to the starting lineup.

He's still learning, still listening, but there's no doubt he's Air Force's best chance for limited success this season.

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Twitter: @davidramz

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