One local talent has graduated, but another familiar face is tasked with taking the reins of Furman basketball. Rising junior and Fayette County High alum Noah Gurley is primed for big things next season.
Gurley cut his teeth playing for Coach Andre Flynn’s Fayette County Tiger powerhouse. He blossomed his last two years, earning All-State honors as both a junior and a senior.
“During my time at FCHS I learned that nothing would be handed to you in this game,” Gurley said. “No matter how talented you are, you must work twice as hard if you want a chance to be special.”
As a senior, the Tigers raced all the way to the Final Four in a campaign that also saw them win the region championship.
“We had home court advantage and beat some quality teams on the way to the Final Four,” he remembered. “It was good to see the community and school rally behind us.”
Loyalty played a major role in leading Gurley to Furman. While most schools overlooked him, they spotted something special.
“They were the first and most consistent Division 1 school to recruit me,” he said.
He was also drawn to their academic reputation and familiarity with McIntosh alum Jordan Lyons. The relationship he built with then-assistant and now-head coach Bob Richey helped make up his mind.
After redshirting his first year, Gurley earned Southern Conference All-Freshman Team honors in 2018-19, starting 26 of his 31 appearances and averaging 8.8 points and 3.6 rebounds. He took a leap into the stratosphere this year as a redshirt sophomore, starting all 32 games and filling the stat sheet nightly with averages of 14.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.9 assists on 53.4 percent shooting from the floor and 40.7 percent on 3-pointers.
“The most important factor was opportunity. We lost a key player, and I knew that I would have to step up. Coach Richey constantly reminded me of this which motivated me to work,” he said. “During that offseason I was able to work with Coach (Tim) Johnson to refine and continue to develop my game. I worked with Coach Matt (Aldred), our strength coach, to transform my body and increase my endurance. Also, just having a year of experience playing helped me for this past season.”
The team was playing well this year, winning 25 games for the second-straight year, when the season was cancelled due to COVID-19. The unexpected end to the season was jarring, but it has given Gurley reason to be grateful.
“The pain we felt by having our season cut short is something I still haven’t recovered from. It hurts especially because this was my last year with Jordan, so to have not just our season but school year ended hurt,” he said. “Whether we played in the NCAA or NIT tournament, we felt that we could’ve made a run. However, I’ve been using these emotions to motivate me to work in this time of quarantine. This time has reminded me how much I love this game.”
He won’t let the program backslide when they return to the court.
“The loss of Jordan is going to be a major hit for our program, but his mentorship to the team has prepared us to press forward in his absence,” Gurley said. “This year’s team is more talented than the previous years, but we must remember the work ethic and mindset those teams demonstrated to get us to this point. As a fourth-year player, the same qualities have been instilled in me and two of my other teammates (Alex Hunter and Clay Mounce) the most, so it is our task to ensure that this team has same culture that will lead to success.”
Standing 6’8” and versatile to enough to play all around the court, Gurley is starting to hear some NBA buzz, but he’s tuning out the noise.
“Having the opportunity to play this game at a higher level is something I have always aspired to do, but currently I still have my focus on my college career,” he said. “There are certain goals I wish to accomplish with my teammates and this program, so the exposure is nice, but right now my focus is on Furman.”
His focus is on his Paladins, and the opposition is in for a long season.