TYLER -- Garrett Thibodeaux turned 18 Wednesday.

It's an important day for anyone in the United States, a whole new realm of opportunities open. But Wednesday was a bigger than normal milestone for Tyler Lee's promising 6-8 forward. The decision he made the morning of his birthday will impact the remainder of his life.

Thibodeaux signed on to play basketball at the United States Air Force Academy upon graduation from high school in May. Coincidentally, it was the very first day senior high school basketball players could sign a National Letter of Intent and deliver it to the school of their choice.

"The discipline up there, I liked it," the senior said. "I'm not undisciplined, but I can definitely use some discipline. The academics up there are really good. The conference that they're playing in has some top 10 teams, so I'll be playing a better level of competition. I think I'll be up to the challenge."

Thibodeaux is an Ivy League caliber student who just so happens to also excel at basketball. He has a unique combination of outside shooting and size to play the biggest competition.

Columbia was interested in having him before Air Force offered him a spot on their team. All students at the academy receive free tuition and the students serve in the military in return.

A good visit last month persuaded him to become a Falcon.

"I don't know how I'm going to do it all exactly," the senior said. "I don't have a 100 percent plan yet. I don't even know what I'm going to major in. But I've done pretty good so far. I get home, I study, as soon as I get done studying I'll go play basketball. Then I'll take my little brother somewhere. I'm pretty good at juggling and adapting. I think I'll get it done."

The academy certainly will push his limits. That's a military university's biggest selling point.

As a cadet, he'll have to go through the basic cadet training program. He'll get tested in the classroom. Air Force is one of the nation's most selective schools.

Then there's the basketball aspect.

The Falcons belong to the Mountain West Conference. The league sent two teams to the 2014 NCAA Tournament, and the academy has a history of signing up for games against programs from even tougher conferences. Air Force will play Colorado and Texas Tech as stretch games in its non-conference schedule this season.

College competition will certainly be a shock for any freshman, but Lee head coach Jeff Coleman vows to do his best job with the forward.

Both player and coach are in their first year with the program. Coleman was the headman at Kilgore from 2010 through last season. Thibodeaux is a transfer from Tyler Bishop Gorman.

Coleman turned Kilgore from a program that struggled for 30 years prior to his arrival into a group seeking its fourth straight playoff appearance this season.

Lee is in for an exciting season aside from the two additions. The Red Raiders will compete in District 11-6A against athletic teams from the Metroplex. Games against Garland and Rockwall highlight the schedule.

"Basketball has always been good there," Coleman said. "You're going to run into a lot of guys with good size and everyone has talent. There are a lot of select basketball teams. Those kids up there play all year round. What we're going to have to do is make adjustments to play with any style of basketball that we have to.

"We're going to have to be good enough to handle all kinds of presses. We're going to have to be good enough to handle all the size."

Lee will work with a tough non-district schedule as well.

The team has local games lined up against Jacksonville, John Tyler, Longview and Lufkin in addition to tournament appearances hosted by UT-Tyler and Tyler Junior College . It will also sample Dallas area teams in a mid-December tournament at Forney.

"It's going to be pretty good," Thibodeaux said. "I played with Team Texas a little bit this summer with Austin Grandstaff who is up at Rockwall. He's one of the top players in the nation, so it's going to be real fun playing against them. We're going to be a hard-nosed defense and up in your face. I think we're going to do well."

Air Force awaits afterward.

"I think it's a very good choice for a young man like Garrett," Coleman said. "Garrett can be a very good athlete, but Garrett will succeed with structure. He needs those things to get the most out of his talent, his gift. I think the United States Air Force Academy could not be a better choice for him."