By Greg Kuras
It has been a long hard season for the Furman men’s basketball team and the Paladin faithful. The Paladins season ended with a 65-50 defeat against Georgia Southern in the first round of the Southern Conference tournament, leaving their final record at 9-21, with just three of those wins coming in conference play.
Although the Paladins did not find the success they had hoped for in the 2013-2014 campaign, it is easy to overlook some of the bright spots during the season and for the future of the program. Here are a few of my thoughts regarding the team and the future of the program:
Improvement. Despite the fact that the team didn’t reach double digits in the win column, they did improve on a dismal seven win campaign last season.
Flashes of brilliance. During a few games this season, the team put together incredible stretches of play. They looked like a cohesive and well-oiled machine that played with passion and a strong desire to win. If the Paladins can put together an entire season with that type of energy and tenacity, we should see them win a lot more games.
Georgia Southern, Appalachian State and conference-powerhouse Davidson are both leaving the conference, providing an opportunity for the other teams to take home a SoCon title.
First-year head coach with a good plan going forward. Unless you are John Calipari in your first year at Kentucky or Larry Brown at Southern Methodist and have already established yourself as a great recruiter and coach, very rarely does a first year head coach find success immediately. It takes time to build a program, implement your strategies, and recruit the players you want to recruit.
Take, for example, Furman women’s coach Jackie Carson. In her first season in 2010-2011, the Lady Paladins lost more games than they won. Four years later, the Lady Paladins now boast the second best record in the conference and Carson was named SoCon coach of the year. Having been a part of the staff of a Colorado State team that has turned around from a similar situation to back to back NCAA tournament appearances, head coach Niko Medved has the experience, the attitude, and a solid game plan to do the same thing.
A young and talented team. A team with only two upperclassmen (one junior and a redshirt senior) lack the experience to be successful. On the bright side, the freshmen and sophomores who dominate the team’s lineup have the potential, the talent, and, most importantly, the time to grow and improve. This could be a scary thing for opposing teams, as sophomore point guard Stephen Croone, who was named to first team all SoCon, has yet to reach his peak as a player and will be terrorizing opposing guards on the offensive end of the floor. Freshman big man Adonis Rwabigwi might have the highest upside of any player on the roster and has shown a lot of promise, especially toward the end of the season when healthy.
The incoming recruits. Geoff Beans is a 6’7” power forward from Toledo, Ohio. Devin Sibley is a 6’3” point guard from Knoxville, Tenn. Daniel Fowler is a 6’3” shooting guard from Acworth, Ga. John Davis is a 5’11” point guard from Beachwood, Ohio. All of these incoming freshmen have the potential to seriously contribute right off the bat next year.