Thought I’d pass along some highlights from Wednesday night’s men’s basketball banquet for those of you unable to attend.
-As one would expect, senior guard Tim Anderson was given the program’s top honor – the Bob Spear Award. Named after a former coach (known as the father of Air Force basketball), the award is given to “the student-athlete that is outstanding in all areas of the academy – academics, athletics and military performance.”
Anderson was a no-brainer pick.
Though he was a second-team All-Mountain West Conference selection and the league’s defensive player of the year, Anderson never was fully appreciated during his career by those outside academy grounds. It had something to do with his quiet demeanor, and it was in part because he played his junior season in the shadows of the academy’s outstanding Class of 2007. Mostly, though, it was because some of his most valuable contributions were little things that casual fans don’t notice – deflecting passes, picking up charges, helping out on defense.
He led the 2007-08 Falcons in scoring, assists and steals, and he’ll graduate ranked No. 2 at the academy in career games played and career steals – behind Jacob Burtschi in both candidates.
Anderson won’t be leaving the program totally, however. He’ll be back next year to serve as an assistant coach for the prep school’s team.
-Junior Andrew Henke was given the Falcon Award, “given to the player that gives 100 percent regardless of the situation and his place on the team.”
Henke won the award in large part because he willingly accepted the role of “sixth man” even though he played the minutes of a starter, led the team in rebounding and ranked second on the team in scoring.
Coaches often like to say that who starts is insignificant. Back when I covered the Nuggets, George Karl would scoff when I asked him about his starting lineup. He said that was something that wasn’t a big deal and that “you guys” (the media) blew out of proportion.
But players care. They’re lying if they say they don’t. And Henke, though he deserved to start (as it said several times in this blog and multiple times in columns in The Gazette), never complained.
“He put himself behind the team,” Reynolds said.
-Anderson and senior Eric Kenzik shared the Captain’s Award, and senior Keith Maren was given the Strength and Conditioning Athlete of the Year award.
-Athletic director Hans Mueh praised the coaches and the team, calling it one “that will forever leave its mark on the academy.” Mueh said he is “as proud of this program now as I’ve ever been.”
-Head trainer Larry Willock, who is retiring after 14 seasons at the academy, was given a framed No. 14 Air Force jersey.
“I’ve been in coaching for 27 years, and he’s the best,” said Reynolds, who fought back tears as he introduced Willock. “There’s no one close.”
-Reynolds said Air Force is trying to kick off the 2008-09 campaign with the second Air Force Classic. The tournament debuted last season. He also said there are preliminary plans to hold a second tournament at World Arena.
The schedule, however, is coming together quite slowly as teams are shopping for the best deals for their programs.
“It’s extremely difficult,” Reynolds said. “What we’re finding is more and more teams are paying a lot more money to get home games. Anywhere between $80,000 to $100,000 is what the big-time boys are paying to get home games. So consequently, it’s tougher. We’ve had some dialogue with teams. It’s just a work in progress.”