MWC: Burtschi and Blackjack

By David Scott - October 26, 2006

LAS VEGAS - Don't let the baby face and the "Aw, Shucks," demeanor fool you. Air Force senior forward, Jacob Burtschi is a 22-year-old man, a member of cadet squadron 8, a huge Larry Bird fan, and, lest we forget, a pre-season all-MWC pick.

In other words, Burtschi can put a hurtschi on you pretty darn quick, the way he did in a three-point loss to New Mexico last year when he scored a career-high 28 points on 11 of 18 from the field. At 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds, Burtschi may not look like one of the five best players in the loaded MWC, but his ability to do everything supercedes the appearance.

Last season he averaged 12.4 points, a team best 6.1 rebounds and a conference best, 71 steals (2.29 per game).

"I've got to do everything I can to help this team win," said Burtschi. "There are times when I'll come in after practice and just sit for ten minutes and think about what it is I want to do my senior year. And every day I need to make sure that I came in ready to practice and that I'm not just there to get the day over with."

Now, in his final season at the Academy, Burtschi has taken to being more of a vocal leader as well. "At first it was tough for me, but now I'm yelling at the freshmen and (urging) them to eat my lunch (on the court)."

It's all part of being a leader on a team that has the rare distinction of returning a Player of the Year, in Nick Welch, who sat out the 2005-06 season after receiving a "medical turnback by the Air Force Academy." Welch was the league's Player of the Year as a sophomore - the Air Force Academy's first-ever to receive the honor - and returns this season as perhaps the league's biggest X-factor.

. . . Burtschi was a bit bummed by the bevy of snow Colorado was recieving today. "They cancelled classes for like the first time in ten years and I don't even get to be there for it," he joked.

. . . The Chickasha, Oklahoma native said he did manage to get in a few hands of black jack at the Aladdin casino, but he was disappointed that the cheapest table was of the $10 variety. "I sat down, polayed a few hands and then I was done. I like when they have like $3 tables - you can play for a little longer."

. . . BYU sophomore Trent Plaisted - the MWC Freshman of the Year last season - is also a fan of Las Vegas. "I love the lights of the city," he said, noting, in the biggest understatement of the day, "it's a little different than Provo."

Posted by David Scott at 01:15 PM on October 26, 2006

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