Over the past four years, Furman basketball has seen a substantial upgrade in many ways. A winning standard has been set and a culture put into place. While two head coaches during that time frame — Niko Medved and current head coach Bob Richey — have played a major part, it’s been players like senior guard Jordan Lyons that have put a stamp on the program.
Lyons, a native of Peachtree City, GA, will play his final game in front of the Furman home crowd Saturday, as the Paladins host The Citadel. He’ll leave the Paladin basketball program as the school’s all-time leader in wins (95 to-date) and three-point field goals made (285), while currently ranking 16th in career points (1,505).
Lyons readies to play his final game in front of the Timmons Arena faithful, and has had quite a legacy to celebrate during his four seasons as a Paladin. So many memorable moments from Lyons’ career have happened at home, namely his NCAA record-tying 15 made threes against North Greenville last year.
It seems like just yesterday that I was in then-assistant coach Bob Richey’s office discussing Lyons — a then-wide-eyed 17-year-old who had already signed a national letter of intent to attend Furman.
Richey brimmed with excitement when I brought up his name. He knew what Furman was getting, and his excitement was less about what Lyons could do as a shooter and more to do with his magnetic personality and the difference he could make off the floor. Lyons had been highly sought-after in the conference with Wofford, Mercer and Chattanooga all after him as well.
Richey values recruits that come from winning high school programs — he feels they can help take Furman to the next level. He felt Lyons would be one of those guys, and he was right.
Lyons came at a time when Furman desperately needed a spark. It needed his personality to push it further. He’s done that and more.
The past four years have been a golden generation of Furman basketball, starting with the 2016-17 season and guys like senior Kris Acox. A year later it was Devin Sibley, Daniel Fowler John Davis III and Geoff Beans.
Last year, it was the stoic, level-headedness of Matt Rafferty that seemed to personify the toughness and grit that has been required for Furman basketball to get to make the progress it has. Then this year, Lyons has worn the emotion and the character on his sleeve.
Like those who came before him, Lyons has his own unique traits that have helped build the Furman basketball culture, infused with a personality only he can provide. His signature stomp after hitting a big three against Loyola will always stick out.
After Furman’s hard-fought, 75-66, loss at East Tennessee State last week, Lyons once again let his off-the-court personality shine. While ETSU head coach Steve Forbes and I were having a friendly conversation after the game, Lyons came up and shook Forbes’ hand and told him it had been an honor to compete against a coach like him.
Forbes told him that the season isn’t over yet, but that it had been a pleasure to coach against someone with Lyons’ character.
Those are the kind of moments that make you realize who Lyons really is. He loves the sport. He loves people and he is a major reason Furman basketball has an opportunity to return to the NCAA Tournament.