The first public move to anoint new leadership to the Air Force men’s basketball team came on Wednesday with a subtle gesture.
Coach Joe Scott selected junior forward Nikc Jackson to represent the team on a virtual media day, even when senior AJ Walker would have been an option.
“I thought it would be nice for Nikc to be here to have that kind of experience,” Scott said.
The two-day media event began Wednesday with the unveiling of the preseason media poll and all preseason conference team. The Falcons were chosen last in a near-unanimous vote and no player received individual accolades.
Picking Jackson as the player to speak at the event was not intended to be an affront to Walker, the team’s top returning scorer who Scott repeatedly praised when speaking with reporters on Wednesday. He was meant to welcome Jackson to serve as a spokesperson and play a bigger role.
“It shows that the coach trusts me a little bit more and doesn’t just play,” Jackson said. “It shows that there is a little more confidence in me. It means I have more responsibility, and it’s a responsibility I’m happy to take on and see what I can do with it.
A leadership role was going to be thrust upon Jackson one way or another. The Falcons had six players who logged 500 or more minutes last year, and the two returning are Walker (a four-year-old starter who averaged 15.3 points per game last year) and Jackson (who scored 8.2 points per game and led the team in rebounding at 3.4 per game).
No one else who has played more than 240 minutes or averaged more than 4 points per game is back.
“For all intents and purposes, I consider this Year 1,” said Scott, who returned to the Air Force last season after leading the team 16 years earlier. His comeback was complicated by COVID-19 which limited his preseason work with the team and then limited the team to five non-conference games in a shortened season.