Air Force basketball gains depth as off-time offshoot of COVID-19 | Air force sports
Whenever Air Force basketball comes out of its intrusive hiatus, it will do so with enhanced depth.
For now, however, the wait remains.
At this point, the Falcons have not announced any plans to add games this week. They have seen two of their last three games postponed due to COVID-19 cases as part of their opponents’ programs. Those unexpected breaks, plus an open date on the schedule this week, will leave coach Joe Scott’s schedule playing just one game in 16 days – Tuesday’s 67-59 loss to Colorado State’s No.20.
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“It’s not about the games,” Scott said. “It’s about growing, it’s about improving. It’s about having the team together so that we can do it. This is what we do.
When games resume for Air Force (8-5, 1-1 Mountain West), Scott will have more reliable options.
Prior to the Dec. 29 conference opener against Utah State, Scott had used his top eight players for 1,980 of the team’s 2,000 minutes.
Then came the COVID cases within Air Force programs that ruled out center Lucas Moerman, goalie Joseph Octave and key reserve Jeffrey Mills for two games and top scorer AJ Walker for one.
In their absence, Scott had to look elsewhere; and the players prospered.
Carter Murphy, who had only played three minutes in the first 10 games after missing much of the preseason with a wrist injury, played 53 minutes in those two games. Against the Rams, Murphy made 3 of 3 3-point attempts, made no turnovers, took five rebounds and scored 13 points.
“You have to be flexible,” Murphy said. “You have to be able to trust your teammates who you are here with every day because you don’t know what can happen. With COVID, everything is crazy right now. “
With the addition of Murphy, the Falcons now have six players who have attempted at least six 3-pointers this season and connect to a clip of 36% or better.
This stretch also saw 6-foot-11 center Ryan Corner register 15 minutes, providing valuable experience should the team’s two regulars at the post encounter fouling issues.
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And it wasn’t just the guys who hadn’t seen regular action that benefited from it. Camden Vander Zwaag, who averaged 16 minutes per game in the first 10 games, played the full 40 minutes in the Falcons’ 49-47 win and the near crash at Fort Collins. He’s averaged 10 points, shot 50% and had six assists with three turnovers in those games.
“It really helped us do some of the plays that we have and how many guys we can really lean on in the tough places,” said first year guard Ethan Taylor, the team leader in minutes played, said. rebounds, assists and steals.
None of this was as expected. Scott would have preferred his whole team gathered to practice or play while he works to lay the foundation for the program.
But what he saw of his team in two conference games will also work.
“I can watch and coach a team like this everyday, all day,” he said of the effort against Colorado State. “I mean, if that’s what we’re going to be, that’s what we strive to be, and we’re competing so hard… that’s all we want here.
“At the end of the day, we have to find the right one in it, and I think they are.”