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MWC basketball preview: Air Force Falcons

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of an 11-part series previewing the University of New Mexico’s 10 Mountain West Conference opponents and their non-league schedule breakdown. The order of MWC teams published daily will be in reverse order of the preseason media poll. To see list of all previews, CLICK HERE.

A picture hangs in a hallway of Clune Arena in Colorado Springs that reminds Air Force basketball coach Dave Pilipovich every day that the challenges of coaching at a service academy aren’t insurmountable.

The photo was taken with 1:37 remaining in the Falcons’ March 9 upset of the New Mexico Lobos to conclude the 2012-13 regular season. Trailing 85-82 to the Lobos, the picture shows five Falcons in front of a soldout arena in defensive stances guarding the Lobos’ starting five with recent NBA first-round pick Tony Snell being just out of the frame.


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The Falcons won the game 89-88 on a 3-pointer with 2 seconds remaining.

“You look at those guys and they’re pros,” Pilipovich said, saying he thinks Alex Kirk and Kendall Williams are NBA-level players like Snell, while Hugh Greenwood and Cameron Bairstow will also play professionally after college.

“Those guys are really good. … And us, we’ve got a pilot trainer, two financial officers, a prep school coach (in the photo). That picture is awesome because you see our guys down in a stance, the score and the time and just knowing what it’s all about and the challenges we have.”

The challenges Air Force overcame last year were great en route to an 18-14 season, including advancing to the second round of the tournament. The challenges this season after losing the team’s top six scorers are even greater.

Pilipovich said he wasn’t surprised his team was picked 10th in the 11-team Mountain West Conference in a preseason media poll.

“Now it’s up to us to make this wrong again,” Pilipovich said, reminding reporters they picked his team to finish last in the nine-league team a season ago.

Forward DeLovell Earls started 22 of 32 games last year for Air Force and returns after averaging 3.9 points and 3.1 rebounds per game.

The team is excited about the potential of sophomore point guard Tre’ Coggins and junior forward Kamryn Williams.


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Roswell High graduate Marek Olesinski, a 6-foot-9 junior forward who scored a career-high 15 points in that March win over the Lobos, will start in the post for Air Force, though is most comfortable as a perimeter-oriented forward as opposed to playing center.

Scott Adler, a 6-4 guard who graduated from Mesilla Valley Christian School in Las Cruces, is “in the mix to be in our rotation,” Pilipovich said.

Whatever the rotation, there won’t be any replacing all-league star Michael Lyons or fellow departed seniors Mike Fitzgerald, Todd Fletcher and Taylor Broekhuis. But Pilipovich does hope to continue the up-tempo style he started last year with that veteran group.

“The pace won’t change; the result of the pace may change,” Pilipovich said. “We were able to push it ahead and score – push ahead and shoot the 3. We’ll still do that, but it may clank this time.”

Air Force Academy Falcons

Head coach: Dave Pilipovich, 20-20 at Air Force and overall (third season)
Starters returning: 1
2012-13 record: 18-14 (8-8 MWC)
Preseason media poll: 10th of 11 teams
vs. UNM: March 5 in the Pit (no game in Colorado Springs this season because of unbalanced schedule)