Falcon Basketball Players Were Pioneers

By: Jesse Kurtz
By: Jesse Kurtz

Earlier this week, former Air Force basketball player Jacob Burtschi graduated with the class of 2007 from the Air Force Academy.  A day, he wasn't sure he'd ever see.  He told us in an interview, "I thought freshman and sophomore year it was going to take a prayer, but I guess my prayer was answered."  Yes, he made it!   And what a ride its been.

Burtschi, along with Nick Welch, Dan Nwaelele, Matt McCraw helped build something very special at Air Force.  They made a winner out of a program that had no business competing on a national level, much less winning.  But these players would have no part of that.  From the moment they stepped onto the Academy grounds, they were winners.  Burtschi and company made the NCAA tournament in their Freshman year.  They made another tourney appearance their Junior year.  Then, their senior year was spectacular.  A top-15 ranking, 30-game home win streak, a possible #4 seed in the NCAA tournament.  A season of hope crumbled before their very eyes.  A four-game losing streak sunk the tournament hopes.  The NIT was the next-best thing.  The seniors could have thrown in the towel.  Called it quits.  Who would have blamed them?  They didn't.  Their true colors shined again.  Rising to the challenge and advancing to the NIT final four.  Putting a cap on a season, and careers that won't soon be forgotten at the Air Force Academy.

When I was hired at KKTV in 2002, I left a job in Iowa where I covered big-time basketball.  Big 10 and Big 12 hoops took up a majority of my time and attention.  Initially, I missed my old job.  Covering basketball at KKTV was boring.  I wanted to be back in the heart of basketball country where every Saturday was filled with excitement.

Thanks to Jake Burtschi, Nick Welch, Dan Nwaelele and Matt McCraw, my prayers were answered.  

Air Force basketball has been exciting to follow for the last four years.  Those four seniors are truly a class act.  I appreciate every thing they have meant to Air Force, this community and me as a professional journalist.

Thanks guys.  Its been a great ride!  Congratulations on your graduation!

Until next time, keep living the dream!

Jesse Kurtz, KKTV Sports Anchor/Reporter  

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