Jordan Lyons makes history. Whether at McIntosh High or Furman University, the sharpshooter made a habit of doing what has never been done before.
McIntosh has always been a soccer school first, but the Chiefs turned into a basketball force during Lyons’s time with the green and black. Lyons, along with the core of Will Washington, Dishon Lowery, and Chase Walter, turned the Chiefs into a perennial contender. Their rise culminated in a 29-3 campaign for 2015-16 where they reached the Final Four for the first time in program history.
“The highlight of my McIntosh playing days was being a large part of the best teams in school history,” said Lyons. “Being a large part of the first two region championships in school history and making it to the Final Four my senior year was special.”
While Lyons rewrote the individual record books, including finishing as the county’s all-time leading scorer with 2,351 career points, it was the strength of the team that stuck with him.
“What I learned at McIntosh was that when you have a team that truly buys in and embraces their roles and cares about each other, special things can happen,” he said. “The relationships that were built during the special four-year run were such a blessing.”
Despite being one of the state’s best shooters and averaging 19.3 points a game as a senior, college recruiters missed a gem in Lyons, but Furman University knew they found a star in the making.
Slept on by bigger schools because he is considered short at 5’11”, he’s taken it out on the opposition. With a silky smooth shot and a mercenary’s mentality, he is capable of getting scalding hot on a moment’s notice.
“Honestly, people can say whatever they want about me being ‘undersized.’ I’ve heard it my whole life, and I’ve chosen to never let it bother me. The Lord made me who I am, and the best thing I can do is try to outwork everyone and prove them all wrong,” said Lyons. “My entire life I’ve used it as fuel and motivation because I love proving people wrong. People didn’t think I would be able to excel at the Division 1 level being 5’11”, nor did they think I would be able to become a pro, and I’ve been able to accomplish both of those feats. That’s all just realizing the gifts and blessings God has given and working as hard as you can. At the end of the day, all it takes is for you to believe in yourself.”
The Paladins and Lyons were a perfect fit, a team in need of a turnaround and a player with something to prove.
“What drew me to Furman the most was the coaching staff and the players. While I was a recruit, I was able to build a solid relationship with the staff and the players that gave me a feeling of home,” he said. “Furman wasn’t very good at all when they were recruiting me, and I wanted to be a pioneer of change. I wanted to be a large part of the rebuild into an elite program.”
Lyons wasted no time making a mark. As a true freshman, he appeared in 34 of 35 games, scoring 5.9 points a night as a reserve. He kept improving, playing in every game as a sophomore and starting eight times, improving his scoring average to 8.3 points. He made a leap as a junior, starting 32 games and posting 16.2 points a night. This year he led the team in scoring at 16.4 points a game, earning Lou Henson Mid-Major All-America Team honors.
His improvement mirrored that of the team. Prior to Lyons arriving on campus in Greenville, S.C., the Paladins hadn’t won 20 games in a season since 2011, but they hit that mark each of his four seasons.
“The key to turning the tide has been just complete buy-in from everyone in the program. It all starts with belief. Belief that we have what it takes to get what we want done. We believed we were going to rebuild the program, and we worked relentlessly every single day with that belief,” he said. “There has been a complete buy-in that has resulted in success. When you love people, hold people accountable, and do things for people other than yourself, special things can happen. As long as future classes keep that up, which I’m 110 percent positive they will, Furman basketball will continue to rise and get better.”
After a junior year that ended in a disappointing upset loss in the conference tournament, the Paladins bounced back. They matched the 25 victories and reached the Southern Conference quarterfinals before losing. A postseason trip seemed likely, but those hopes were dashed when COVID-19 brought the sports world to a screeching halt.
“When I realized the college basketball season was being shut down, it was one of the most disappointing and hurtful things I’ve ever heard,” he recalled. “Being a senior and the leader of our team, the chance to play in the postseason for the last time, whether it was the NCAA Tournament or the NIT, was something I was looking forward to more than anything. That was going to be my last chance to put on the Furman purple. It hurt so much because I believe with my whole heart we still had legacy to create.”
The only senior in Furman’s Class of 2020, Lyons leaves his name all over the school’s record books. Along with placing 15th in school history with 1,529 career points, he finished with a school-record 288 career 3-pointers, a school-record 105 3-pointers in a season, and a school-record 96 career wins. He also wrote his name in NCAA annals when he tied the collegiate all-time single-game record with 15 3-pointers against North Greenville in November 2018.
He had to close the book early on his college career, but Lyons still has plenty of exciting chapters left to write.
“What’s next for me is professional basketball. That’s been my childhood dream, and it’s a blessing that I will be able to live it out. COVID-19 has slowed the process down a tad bit with all sports being paused, but we are starting to get back Into a flow and leagues are starting to figure out to plans to get back rolling,” he said. “My agent works relentlessly to get the best opportunities for me, so I’m doing my part by constantly working and staying ready. If I do that, I trust that the Lord will lead me where I need to be.”
The message to rising stars looking to follow in his footsteps to play college ball is simple: Be ready to work.
“It takes 100 percent buy-in to excel at the next level,” he said. “To be successful at a high level, a lot of your habits will have to change. You will have to make numerous sacrifices, and you must be humble enough to realize there is always someone better than you and always someone working harder than you. So, knowing that, you have to have a mindset that you can’t be outworked. It’s a grind, it’s hard, but it’s well worth it.”
Jordan Lyons has put in the work and his rewards are rolling in.