GREENVILLE, S.C. -- It was March 4, 2018, and Furman had just bowed out of the Southern Conference Tournament with a disheartening 63-52 loss in the semifinals to East Tennessee State. It was the second time in three years that the Paladins had bowed out of the Southern Conference Tournament.
The loss was different than the one had been two years earlier. It was the final go around for three seniors that had been part of 76 wins over a four-year span. The complexion of the program had been changed, but the mantle had been passed on to the next generation of players.
It was the final go around for the likes of 2017 Southern Conference Player of the Year Devin Sibley, All-SoCon honoree and the ever-durable Daniel Fowler, as well as John Davis III, who had been a rock at point guard over a four-year span. Then there was Geoff Beans, who came off the bench for most of his career, but had become a spark with his ability to hit the big shot.
A run that started with a trip to the Southern Conference championship in 2015 had come to an end with many accolades, including the 2016-17 Southern Conference regular-season title and the program’s first postseason wins since 1975 a year earlier. However, they failed to make the NCAA Tournament during their time there.
Enter then sophomore guard Jordan Lyons. In the press conference following the loss to the Bucs, Lyons realized the magnitude of the moment as he looked at his friend, senior Daniel Fowler, knowing it had been his last game. Lyons collected himself, and gave me one of the most compelling answers I had received in a press conference. Lyons spoke of how much the three seniors had meant to him, and how it was a motivating factor for the program moving forward.
For Lyons - one of the SoCon’s most-sought after recruits a couple of years ago - it was with good reason.
He averaged 8.3 PPG and 1.5 RPG, and knocked in 58 threes last season. He scored 15 and 17 points in Furman’s two SoCon tournament games to garner All-Tournament honors. He started the final eight games of the season for the Paladins, posting double figures in four of those starts. All told, he posted double figures in 13 of 33 games for the Paladins last season, including a career-high 20 points in a home SoCon win over The Citadel to open the new year.
The rising junior from Peachtree City, GA, expects to be one of the top shooting guards on one of the top shooting teams in the SoCon in 2018-19. It’s Lyons’ time to lead, and he’s ready to take that leadership mantle from those who helped lay the foundation for this program after several years of futility.
“Daniel Fowler, Geoff Beans, John Davis, and Devin Sibley were really good upperclassmen to have my freshman and sophomore years,” Lyons said, “they had such a big influence on me, showing me how to be a leader, a good teammate, and how to develop my work ethic within a winning culture, and now it’s my time to be that leader to those younger guys and show them what those four showed me about Furman basketball.”
As a high school prep, Lyons starred at McIntosh High School where he became the program’s top all-time scorer. He finished his career as Fayette County’s all-time leading scorer, posting 2,351-career points. In his senior season, Lyons helped pace McIntosh in scoring as he helped his prep program to a 29-3 overall record and an Elite Eight appearance in the AAAAA.
While some players over the past few years like Stephen Croone and Devin Sibley had to learn to become vocal leaders, Lyons never had to be taught. While Croone and Sibley led by example and were high on confidence, Lyons has been a fearless leader for the Paladin basketball program ever since setting foot on campus.
It’s clear that Lyons is ready to come into his own as a player and lead the Paladins this season, and it has shown in his work ethic more than ever this off-season, He’s spending more time in the weight room and has lost about 10 lbs while adding muscle.
Lyons ended up starting the final eight games of the season for the Paladins and may well be that missing piece for Furman in its hopes of lifting its first Southern Conference Tournament trophy and making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1980.
In his first two seasons at Furman, Lyons has shown glimpses of what he can do. His goal as an individual player is to leave a legacy as a player like Croone and Sibley did before him, but first for his team to leave a legacy this season.
Lyons realizes the time is now. Halfway through his career, it’s time for him to step up and take responsibility for the legacy from those four seniors that came before him.
“As a team, the first two years here we’ve done a great job of changing the culture around here and turn this culture around into a positive direction,” Lyons said.
“I think we’re ready as a program to get to that next step with 23 wins each of the past two seasons and 19 the year before that, so in the win column we’re getting a great amount of wins every year but we’re just falling short every year a tad bit in Asheville. I think we as a program are ready to take that next step and we’re trying to top that 23 wins this year and get to the NCAA Tournament. We have all the talent to get to the NCAA Tournament and all of the potential we need, and I believe we have the best staff in the league, the best players and the best culture in the league. Having those three things come together is more than enough in the room to get to the NCAA Tournament and give Furman fans something they haven’t seen since 1980,” he added.
“Individually, I want to cement myself as a notable and memorable Furman guard. I want to be the type player that 40 or 50 years down the road, people would be able to remember the name Jordan Lyons from Furman, and ultimately cement myself as one of the best shooters if not the best shooter to come through Furman University. I want to be an all-conference player, and hopefully one day a player of the year type player, and I’m working hard with my teammates to achieve that.”