photo - Air Force's Ryan Swan shoots as Colorado State's Nico Carvacho defends during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Mountain West Conference tournament Thursday, March 9, 2017, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)
Air Force's Ryan Swan shoots as Colorado State's Nico Carvacho defends during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Mountain West Conference tournament Thursday, March 9, 2017, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken) 

Ryan Swan’s restraint at the dinner table could provide a huge boost for Air Force basketball.

“It was a lot of salads, I can tell you that,” said the sophomore center, describing the plan that helped him drop 25 pounds. “I just watched what I was eating. I wasn’t the best time in my life, but it was worth it.”

Swan, who stands 6-foot-7 and now weighs 225 pounds, displayed his new physique while logging a career-high 26 minutes in a 65-57 victory over Texas State.

He scored seven points, grabbed six rebounds (three on the offensive glass), had a pair of blocks, an assist and a steal.

If his performance in the opener is any indication, Air Force will have the rare luxury of entering a season with a backup center in place and ready to contribute. Last year it took a while to identify Lavelle Scottie as Frank Toohey’s backup. And even then, Scottie was playing out of position. The year before that, Toohey wasn’t identified as a reliable contributor behind Zach Moer until mid-January.

The team’s history continues like that for years, and it has been costly. With a perennially undersized squad, the center has no choice but to defend physically around the basket. That style led Toohey to committing four or more fouls 16 times last year in 33 games. He fouled out six times.

On Sunday, Toohey suffered an early injury and still committed four fouls in 11 minutes. But unlike last year, the team wasn't simply trying to stay afloat while toohey was out.

“We didn’t lose a lot right there,” coach Dave Pilipovich noted.

Swan didn’t flash this kind of potential in games last year, but it wasn’t only because he was playing with some extra weight.

He struggled academically in the early part of the year and didn’t join the team until the second semester. By that point he was out of shape and playing catchup on the schemes.

The Aurora native who attended Overland High School appeared in nine games off the bench as a freshman – beginning with his debut at Boise State on Feb. 11 – and scored 17 points.

It was not the year he wanted, but he learned from it in a reversal so complete he even switched his number from 43 to 34.

“Last year I wasn’t comfortable and it felt like I was always messing up,” Swan said. “This year I feel like I’ve got my routine down and it’s helping me not only up on the hill but down here, too.”

Last year Air Force went 1-5 in games that Toohey fouled out. Conversely, some of the year’s bigger victories – over Missouri State, San Diego State and in the conference tournament against Wyoming – came when he played 28 or more minutes. Perhaps with Swan in the mix, the Falcons can develop a 1-2 presence inside and not rely so much on one foul-prone player.

 

HOOPS DOUBLEHEADER ON TUESDAY

Air Force will host Canisius in a men’s basketball game at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Clune Arena, with the women playing Eastern Washington about 25 minutes after the men’s game concludes.

It will be the first meeting between the Falcons (1-0) and Canisius (0-1). The Golden Griffins fell 80-75 in their opener at Buffalo, but got a team-high 25 points from true freshman Takal Molson.

On the women’s side, Eastern Washington (0-1) was supposed to visit Air Force (0-1) last year but inclement weather prevented it from making the trip. The Big Sky program went 19-15 last year.

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