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Furman is primed for another trip to the postseason

Furman comes into the 2016–17 season off of one of the most impressive seasons in school history.

Furman junior point guard John Davis III Primed For Big Season Running The Point
Furman junior point guard John Davis III Primed For Big Season Running The Point
Furman Athletics

PREVIEWING THE PALADINS:

Furman comes into the 2016–17 season off of one of the most impressive seasons in school history, posting a 19–16 overall mark and an 11–7 mark in league play, which was good enough for third place in the league and the third seed in the 10-team Southern Conference Tournament in Asheville last March.

2015–16 RECAP:

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THE PALADIN BACKCOURT:

Furman’s unquestioned leader in 2016–17 will be junior guard Devin Sibley (12.1 PPG, 2.9 RPG), who will look to fill the huge void led by the Paladins’ leading scorer and fifth-leading scorer in the history, in consensus Southern Conference Player of the Year Stephen Croone. Croone became the first Paladin to garner Southern Conference Player of the Year plaudits (pre or postseason) since Chuck Vincent in 1998.

Sibley, a native of Knoxville, Tenn, poured it on down the stretch last season, finishing the season averaging 19.4 PPG over the final eight games of the season. He ended up posting 12.1 PPG last season. For the second-straight season, Sibley was among the team’s best perimeter shooters, finishing third on the team in three-pointers made (44), which trailed only sharp-shooting forward Geoff Beans (45) and Stephen Croone (47) in prolific outside shooters.

Sibley enjoyed his top game of the season, tying a career-high with 29 points in a Southern Conference semifinal loss to East Tennessee State.

Joining the talented, All-SoCon Sibley in the backcourt this season will be a glut of young and experienced backcourt players to provide a nice blend to Furman’s overall recipe for success. Juniors Jon Davis III (4.5 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 57 assists/34 turnovers) and Daniel Fowler (6.3 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 38% from 3pt range/33-of-87) figure in as the top two to watch, not only in this game, but for the season.

Production from Fowler and Davis III is key to Furman’s all success. In defense of tremendous scoring threats both are, the aggression of Fowler on offense needs to be like it is one the defensive end of the floor, where he thrives at blocking shots and getting rebounds. In all, Fowler finished the season putting up some

It is paramount that Furman play strong with a strong cover two on defensive, but usually flag one of the supervisors. But back to political network that drives this evil. Check the link below for some highlights of Furman’s last timeout and how the Paladins could be sing that prior to large for Phil Rowe.

Furman has not been good on the road head coach Niko Meded (), but the Paladins set records on the friendly court of Timmons Arena, posting a school-record 14 wins, including two at the buzzer, as the Southern Conference continues to see a new balance of power shifting between Furman, Wofford, Mercer and Chattanooga.

Fowler’s baby jumper at the buzzer was Furman’s last season with the season, as the sophomore, defensive-minded player saw Croone’s potential game-winner come off the back iron at a perfect angle to rebound the ball, and put in the baby jumper for the win.

Jon Davis III is known more for his cerebral play at the point guard position, but he is a capable shooter, and like Fowler and Sibley, can be dangerous as a perimeter threat. Davis shot a shade just under 34% (24-of-71), while Fowler was an impressive 38% (33-for-87)from long range.

Last season, Davis saw action in all 33 games for the Paladins, drawing 19 starts. He totaled a career-high 20 points in a loss to Wofford in the regular-season finale a couple of years ago. He averaged 4.5 PPG to go with 1.9 APG and 1.9 RPG last season.

Jonathan Jean (1.6 PPG, 0.8 RPG), who saw only limited court action last season in the backcourt for the Paladins is a player that has the potential to have a breakout year for the Paladins playing the point. He was once recruited by Bob Huggins at West Virginia early in his career. The jet-quick guard saw action in 21 games in his freshman season of 2015–16, scoring a career high seven points to go with a career-best three boards in a 79–70 win over Appalachian State.

The player most Paladin fans are wanting to see when the two teams tip it up this evening is highly-touted true freshman guard Jordan Lyons out of McIntosh High School. The 5–11, 170-lb, Peachtree City, GA product averaged 19.3 PPG, brought down 2.5 boards per game and dishing out 2.4 helpers per game en route to helping McIntosh to an impressive 29–3 record last season. Lyons also shot better than 40% from three-point range as a senior.

Rounding out the newcomers in the backcourt is Tre Clark, who might be the most impressive player on the floor of the newcomers since camp started, and could see the most playing time consistently of any of the trio of rookies slated to suit up for the Paladins this evening.

Clark, a rangy 6–5, 185-lb native of Palmetto, FL, gives Furman a real wing presence on both ends of the floor, with athleticism and shooting ability, and it’s much the same type of recruit the Paladins got a couple of years ago when Daniel Fowler showed up on Furman’s roster.

Clark led Palmetto High School in scoring, averaging 24.7 PPG as a senior, while also helping his team to 14 wins and a runner-up finish in their particular conference. Additionally, Clark added 6.2 RPG and 5.0 APG.

Andrew Brown (3.2 PPG, 2.1 RPG) — a local product of nearby Travelers Rest, SC, earned praise last season for his effort, especially on the boards as well as on the defensive end of the floor.

Brown should challenge for a significant increase in minutes this season. The former Travelers Rest Devildog was a runner-up for the Mr. Basketball award in the state of South Carolina as a senior. In his first season at Furman, Brown

Both TK Hayes and Brady Schuck round out the players who will supplement the backcourt off the bench this evening. Hayes, a senior, was given a basketball scholarship after earning that for efforts on and off the floor earlier this spring.

FURMAN’S FRONT COURT PREVIEW:

Furman could have among the strongest front courts in the Southern Conference heading into the season, and it starts with two players that were vital to Furman’s overall success last season, in Iceland-born Kris Acox (8.9 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 20 Blks, 61.4 FG%) and Southern Conference All-Freshman honoree Matt Rafferty (8.0 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 64 assists/44 turnovers, 48.3 FG%).

Acox got addition experience this past summer, starring for the Iceland National Team in the European Championships, as he is seen above with a dunk against Belgium.

The 6–6, 215-lb native of Reykajavik appeared in all 35 games as a junior, averaging 8.9 PPG and 5.8 RPG. He gives the Paladins a great presence in the paint and remains one of the primary reasons the Paladins ranked second in the league behind only Mercer in rebound margin (+4.3) last season.

Acox scored a career-high 19 points and grabbed 10 boards in a win over VMI to open up Southern Conference play in early January of last season. Acox sported among the highest field goal percentages in the SoCon last season, connecting at a 61.7% clip.

He’ll be joined by Rafferty — a SoCon All-Freshman pick — who ended up scoring in double figures in 13 games and produced seven double-doubles in his rookie season with the Purple and White. The 6–8 native of Hinesdale, Ill, saw action in 35 games, with 30 starts in his inaugural campaign. Two of his best games came against teams with the mascot of a Bulldog, posting 20 points and the game-winning triple in a road win at Samford last February, while tallying a career-high 21 points to go with 10 points in a 95–75 win over The Citadel.

Rafferty was one of Furman’s most effective long-range shooters last season, canning 17-of-53 (32.1%) from long range last season. He also passes extremely well out of the post, finishing second to only Croone in total helpers last season, with 64 assists in his rookie season. Defensively, he led the Paladins with 30 rejections last season, and between Rafferty and Acox, Furman totaled 50 for the season. Rafferty finished the season averaging 8.0 PPG and grabbed 6.7 RPG.

Geoff Beans (5.4 PPG, 2.1 RPG, leads returnees with 45 made triples last season) is Furman’s lethal weapon from long-range, and there’s plenty of reason to believe this might be the season in which Beans proves he is one of the best shooters in mid-major basketball. The two weaknesses of his game-post moves and defense-have also improved drastically over the off-season, according to the coaching staff.

Like the aforementioned Jean in the backcourt, look for Beans to have the same breakout type season underneath. The 6–7 junior from Toledo, OH, was Furman’s top perimeter threat, canning 45 triples last season, which was good enough for second on the team. He will be one of the top players coming off the bench for the Paladins once again this season.

Jalen Williams is a player that red-shirted last season, but was a highly-touted prospect coming as a part of a talented class brought in by Niko Medved last season. Williams is big and athletic, and the 6–8, 245-lb forward/center out nearby Wade Hampton High School will likely be looked to as Kris Acox backup coming in off the bench. Williams has the potential to have as much impact as Rafferty did in his first season with the Paladins last season, garnering SoCon All-Freshman accolades.

Williams was a prep standout at Wade Hampton where he starred for then-head coach Darryl Nance. For his efforts as a senior, Williams garnered AAAA All-State honors, according to the South Carolina Basketball Coaches Association.

Another newcomer with athleticism and one that will see plenty of the floor this season is Clay Mounce. Mounce is 6–7, 200-lb freshman from Mount Airy, NC, where he played his prep basketball for Mount Airy High School. To say he was impressive would be a vast understatement, as he posted 25.2 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 3.2 APG, 3.0 BPG and 2.7 SPG as a senior.

Mounce has some bounce or spring in his leaping ability, and Paladin fans should expect to see plenty of highlight reel type dunks from him over the next four years.

THE SCHEDULE:

Furman’s non-conference schedule won’t be as challenging as it was last year, but it won’t be short of tough outs. The Paladins will visit Michigan (Dec. 22) and Georgia (Nov. 17) as two of the main course out of league contests.

Last season, the Wolverines were 23–13 and were able to squeak into the NCAA Tournament, thanks in large part to their play down the stretch last season.

Head coach John Belein is one of the best coaches in the business, and the Wolverines will be a middle-of-the-pack Big Ten club this season, which is much like what Minnesota was a couple of years ago. Among the top returnees for the Wolverines heading into the season will be senior guard Derrick Walton, Jr (11.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG) and 6–6 swingman Zak Irvin (11.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG).

The Bulldogs, who of course were knocked off by the Chattanooga Mocs of the SoCon early last season, will be another enticing opponent for Paladin basketball enthusiasts, and one that the Paladins are at least familiar with.

Georgia is also coming off a strong season, as head coach Mark Fox guided the Bulldogs to a 20–14 record. The Bulldogs, like Michigan, are projected to be a middle-of-the-pack team in the SEC this season. The Bulldogs must replace a pair of talented backcourt players, with the graduation of both Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann.

Georgia was able to make into the NIT where they would eventually be knocked out of the tournament by ST. Mary’s. The top returnees for the Bulldogs heading into the campaign is 5–10 guard J.J. Frazier (16.9 PPG), as well as talented forward Yante Maten (16.2 PPG).

Those two were the leading scorers for the Bulldogs last season. The Paladins and Bulldogs will be meeting for the 27th time on the hardwood when they square off on Nov. 17. Furman is 4–22 all-time against Georgia, with the last win over the Bulldogs coming back during the 19 back during the 1977–78 season, as the Paladins posted a 92–83 win over the Bulldogs.

The Paladins will also face a talented University of Alabama-Birmingham team in the second game of the season as it will be the first of three the Paladins will start the game on the road.

The Furman-UAB clash will take place on Nov. 14, which is just before the Paladins’ trip to Stegman Coliseum to face the Georgia Bulldogs. Furman’s contest against the Blazers. The games against UAB and Georgia will be as a part of the CBE Hall-of-Fame Classic Tournament.

It will mark the first-ever matchup between the two programs, and the Blazers are a program that are coming off an impressive 26–7 record last season, and won Conference USA’s regular-season crown with a dominating 16–2 league mark. UAB is a program with a rich tradition of course, with the likes of the legendary Gene Bartow helping lead the Blazers to the NIT in its second year of existence in 1979–80. A couple of years later and Bartow had the Blazers in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.

This season, the Blazers should be loaded and primed to take the Conference USA title for a second-straight season, as Conference USA reigning Defensive Player of the Year, in 6–7 forward William Lee (10.6 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.9 BPG), as well as another all-league candidate Chris Coakley (13.1 PPG, 6.5 RPG). Lee and Coakley are just a pair of the four starters returning off last season’s 26–win club that qualified for the NIT Tournament, losing their opening game of the tournament in a game at BYU.

The Paladins face off against four teams from the Big South Conference this season, including the season opener on the road against Presbyterian on Nov. 11. The Blue Hose and Paladins faced off in the season opener last season, with Furman claiming a 63–53 win over the Blue Hose. The season-opening meeting between the Paladins and Blue Hose will mark the 74th all-time clash between the two programs, with Furman holding a commanding 58–16 all-time lead in the series.

The Paladins will also be involved in clashes with last year’s Big South Champion, as the Paladins will host UNC Asheville (Nov. 22), as they look to avenge last season’s heartbreaking road loss at Kimmel Arena. Furman will also be on the road to face Liberty and Gardner-Webb.

Gardner Webb was the lone opposition to take down the Paladins on their home floor during the regular season last year, claiming a 73–53 win in Greenville. Furman also picked up a lopsided 79–56 win over Liberty. The Paladins will travel to the Vines Center to face the Flames on Dec. 6, and will be in Boiling Springs to battle Gardner-Webb on Dec. 10.

The most intriguing with a Big South foe might be the one against Winthrop, however. The Eagles should once again be among the favorites to claim the Big South. It will mark the first time the Paladins will have faced off against the Eagles since the 1998–99 season and will mark just the ninth overall clash between the two. The Eagles were an impressive 23–9 last season, including 14–1 inside the friendly confines of the Winthrop Coliseum.

The last time the Paladins met the Eagles was during the hey-day for the program, with the likes of of Roger Toxey and Tyson Waterman as a part of that Gregg Marshall-led club.

The Paladins of course set a regular-season record by going 13–1 on its home court, and 14–2 overall if you include the postseason games. Three starters return for the Eagles heading into the season, including Keon Johnson (18.7 PPG, 4.2 RPG), who ended the season tied for the team lead in overall scoring. The 5–7 point guard also canned a team-high 78 triples last season.

Forward Xavier Crooks will also figure prominently into the mix as a double-digit scorer, having posted 14.7 PPG, 7.1 RPG and 54 blocks for the 2015–16 season. Furman and Winthrop will be meeting for the ninth time in each programs history, but the Eagles have won the previous three clashes. Furman has not claimed a win against Winthrop on the hardwood since a 74–68 win over the Eagles in 1989–90.

When the Paladins host UNC Asheville on Nov. 22, the Paladins will be looking to avenge that heartbreaking, 67–65, loss to the Bulldogs last season in the Altitude City.

Returning for head coach Nick McDevitt’s club this season will be four regulars, with only one key loss, and that should see the Bulldogs once again in the mix for Big South glory. The Bulldogs and Paladins will be meeting for the 15th time, with the series all tied at seven apiece.

The Bulldogs claimed 22 wins last season, and along with returning talented juniors, in sharp-shooting guard Kevin Vannatta(11.5 PPG) and forward Ahmed Thomas (11.1 PPG, 6.6 RPG), while seniors Will Weeks (6.8 PPG, 4.3 RPG) and David Robertson (4.9 PPG, 1.5 RPG) round out what is a solid core group of players. The Bulldogs did lose talented guards Dwayne Sutton and Dylan Smith to transfer, however.

Furman will look to avenge what was one of its worst offensive displays of the season just before Christmas last season, as the Paladins will face the Navy team that soundly defeated the Paladins, 62–49, last year in Anapolis in what was the first-ever meeting between the two programs. Navy will pay a visit to Timmons Arena on Dec. 3.

Like Furman, the Midshipmen are coming off a season which saw them garner 19 wins, however, unlike the Paladins, the Mids are picked by most prognostications in the lower portion of the Patriot League heading into the season.

Former Southern Conference coach Ed DeChellis (East Tennessee State, 1998–2003) has helped Navy up its win total each of the past five seasons, and have been one of the mid-major programs on the rise, much like Furman has been the past couple of seasons. DeChellis now must replace some pretty key losses due to graduation, including talented point guard Tilman Dunbar (11.7 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 127 assists) and the team’s rim protector and Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year Will Kelly (10.5 PPG, 5.8 RPG) in the paint.

Shawn Anderson (13.2 PPG, 4.0 RPG) returns to the backcourt, and sharp-shooting Tom Lacey (4.5 PPG, 4.2 RPG) returns underneath the bucket.

Two of Furman’s final three non-conference Division I tilts before beginning Southern Conference play in-earnest will be against teams that hail from both the MEAC and Ohio Valley Conferences.

The first of the two matchups will occur on Dec. 16, as South Carolina State — a team picked to finish second in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) — will pay a visit to Timmons Arena.

It will mark just the 16th meeting all-time between the Paladins and Bulldogs on the college basketball hardwood, and first since the 2009–10 season when the Bulldogs picked up what was a thrilling 59–55 win over the Paladins in a mid-December clash at Timmons Arena. Furman has a commanding 11–4 all-time series edge in the Palmetto State rivalry.

The Bulldogs return four starters from a team that won 19 games last season, and like the Paladins, qualified for the CIT. Leading the four starters returning for the Bulldogs for the 2016–17 season is Eric Eaves, who averaged 17.6 PPG last season.

The final Division I non-conference opponent is Tennessee Tech out of the Ohio Valley Conference. Like South Carolina State and UNC Asheville, Tennessee Tech was also a very sound basketball program last year. Tennessee Tech talented junior guard Aleksa Jugovic averaged 12.1 PPG and shot 42% from three-point land

The Golden Eagles won 19 games (19–12) last season, including an impressive 11–5 mark inside the always-tough Ohio Valley Conference. The best news for head coach Steve Payne’s club entering the season is the return junior guard Aleksa Jugovic (12.1 PPG, 42% from 3pt range).

His backcourt mate this season will be Hakeem Rogers, who was on the verge of double figures, at 9.9 PPG, and like Jugovic, shot better than 40% from three-point land last season, as he connected on 40.1% from long-range last season. Key losses for the Golden Eagles include guard and leading scorer Torrance Rowe, who averaged 18.2 PPG, and 4.4 APG, as well as senior forward Ryan Martin, who contributed 14.2 PPG and 8.2 RPG in his final campaign.

It will mark just the third all-time meeting between the two programs, with the last meeting between the two coming in the San Juan Shootout in Puerto Rico back during the 1997–98 campaign, which saw the Golden Eagles claim a narrow 62–58 win in the seventh-place game of the San Juan Shootout in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The game against Tennessee Tech, which will take place at the Hooper-Eblen Center, will mark Furman’s first trip to Cookeville, Tenn. The only other meeting between the two programs — a 95–78 win by Furman at the Memorial Auditorium — took place during the 1977–78 season.

The Golden Eagles’ 19 wins yielded the program in the "Vegas 16" which saw the Golden Eagles drop their only game in the tournament, with a 75–59 loss to Old Dominion.

The Paladins will also play a pair of non-Division I foes in 2016–17, with games against both Hiwassee (Nov. 25) and Trinity Baptist (Nov. 19). The Paladins open conference play inside the friendly confines of Timmons Arena, protecting a nine-game homecourt winning streak against league foes when The Citadel comes to town on New Year’s Eve.

Mercer will be Furman’s first opponent of 2017, visiting on Jan. 2. The Paladins were 2–2 against those two clubs last season, with both losses coming on the road, dropping a 69–65 game at Mercer and an 89–86 contest at The Citadel.

Southern Conference Finish: 2nd or 3rd

Postseason Tournament: CBI/Second Rd

Final Record: 21-14