HENDERSON, Nev. • First there was a bout of pneumonia. One game day morning a migraine left him unable to see properly. And during one game, his jump shot vanished and he made just 10 of 27 shots.
Throughout all the travails of an at-time cursed junior season, Lavelle Scottie managed to average 15.3 points and 5.6 rebounds for Air Force.
Now, as a senior, he’s healthy, excited and enters the season with an accolade that had evaded Falcons players since 2005 as Scottie was named Tuesday to the preseason all-Mountain West first team.
“I just felt very blessed,” said Scottie, the first Air Force player named to the conference’s preseason team since Jacob Burtschi. “Obviously the hard work I’ve put in, somebody’s recognizing it.”
Scottie, a 6-foot-7 forward from Fort Worth, Texas, set a program record by averaging 18.0 points in Mountain West action last season and enters his final season ranked 22nd all-time in team history with 1,045 points.
His points-per-game average climbed from 5.4 as a freshman, when he primarily served as the backup center, to 12.2 as a sophomore and 15.3 as a senior.
He believes a healthy season could help him unlock even more of his potential.
“As a player, being healthy is so important because you’re not missing reps and you’re also getting extra work whenever you can,” Scottie said. “So it’s very important. That holds you from practicing. It holds you from getting better or staying consistent.”
Air Force finished sixth in the Mountain West in 2018-19 and brings back all of its starters and the majority of the roster, yet the Falcons were picked eighth in the league this year. Read reactions from league coaches to the poll.
Scottie represented Air Force at Mountain West media day on Tuesday in the Las Vegas area along with coach Dave Pilipovich and fellow forward Ryan Swan, who averaged 12.6 points and 7.1 rebounds last season and could also find himself in the mix for postseason honors if he puts together a consistent campaign.
“That’s awesome,” Swan said of Scottie’s selection to the preseason team along with Utah State’s Sam Merrill (the preseason Player of the Year) and his teammate Neemias Queta as well as Colorado State’s Nico Carvacho and Boise State guard Derrick Alston. “Our team’s so close, any accomplishment by one of our players is a team accomplishment. I couldn’t tell you anybody in our program that’s not happy about it.”
San Diego State junior guard Malachi Flynn was picked as the preseason Newcomer of the Year by a panel of conference media, including The Gazette. Nevada forward K.J. Hymes was the Freshman of the Year.
Air Force hasn’t had a postseason first-team selection since Michael Lyons in 2012-13, underscoring the rarity of individual accolades for the basketball team.
“I understand that, yeah, you don’t get that often from Air Force, especially a player on the first team,” said Wyoming coach Allen Edwards, whose team surrendered 52 points to Scottie over two games last season. “That goes back to him and the work he’s put in as a basketball player and in his daily life as a cadet, because that’s not an easy deal.”
The Mountain West is nearing completion of a new agreement for its broadcasting rights, and the conference commissioner says late-night kickoffs will remain part of the league's reality.