Camden Vander Zwaag knew he'd need to step up this season as one of only three Air Force seniors among a roster of 21 players, but his production has been a surprise three years in the making.
He broke his career-high scoring mark set in a win over USC-Upstate on Monday with another standout performance on Wednesday, contributing 22 points in a 64-51 rout of Mississippi Valley State to sweep the Collegiate Hoops Roadshow's two-game slate.
His seven 3-pointers to get to a career high were the most for Air Force since Michael Lyons against Citadel in 2012.
Joe Scott didn't originally recruit Vander Zwaag. He was a holdover from the Dave Pilipovich era who chose to stay at Air Force and play under the new regime — through even the COVID-19 hurdles that partially delayed his growth.
"The biggest thing is my teammates," Vander Zwaag said. "They trust me and help me out to get the looks I've had.
"The biggest thing as team captain is to lead. I'm trying to inspire people and get people up — get their energy and confidence up."
The senior guard has emboldened others.
Freshman Corbin Green, fresh off a double-double debut, once again hit double-digit scoring with 13 points alongside his five rebounds and three blocks.
Jake Heidbreder and Ethan Taylor are growing too, as evidenced by the team's back-to-back wins in which the Falcons have led the whole game — this just a week-plus after the team's offense was struggling to get up shots before the shot clock expired.
Fellow senior Carter Murphy has even begun to embrace the captain's mentality of coming through when an offensive possession gets muddy, as he did with two turnaround jumpers late in the second half.
"What Camden has become has been a three-year process," Scott said. "He's one of three seniors in this transition. He's done a really good job of pouring into what we want to do, and it's not easy when change occurs. He's proven that if you embrace the process, stay with it and become a sponge; you find yourself improving."
Possibly the best gift Vander Zwaag could give his teammates was playing time.
When the game reached a concluding margin, with time still on the clock, Kellan Boylan, Chase Beasley, Wyatt Bell, Byron Brown and Beau Becker all took the floor to a raucous ovation from the Clune Arena crowd of 1,490.
"It's so rewarding to see that, those guys are the backbone of this team," Vander Zwaag said of the reserve unit's minutes. "They help us every day in practice to get ready for these teams. To have them take the court is really rewarding and fun to see."