Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Furman basketball's transformation: Beans

Furman senior Geoff Beans. Photo courtesy of Furman.
This is part two of a five-part series on how Furman's senior class of Geoff Beans, John Davis III, Daniel Fowler and Devin Sibley became the nucleus of the remarkable turnaround of the men's basketball program.

The Shooter
On Senior Night Feb. 20, Furman had a comfortable 21-point lead as the clock ticked down under a minute to play. However, an important basket had yet to be scored. It was so important that Furman coach Bob Richey didn't care if VMI heard precisely what the Paladins planned on trying to do.

"Get Geoff a shot! Get Geoff a shot," Richey yelled out as Jordan Lyons dribbled the ball up the court to begin one of the final possessions.

Lyons dribbled to his left around Jalen Williams, who screened a VMI defender which freed up Geoff Beans near the top of the key. Lyons zipped a pass to Beans, who launched a long 3-pointer that rattled in with 51 seconds left. As Beans' 172nd career 3-pointer went down, the crowd erupted, the Paladins' bench jumped up and Richey pumped his fist before calling timeout for Beans' curtain call.

After hugs and high-fives from his teammates on the court, Beans saluted the home crowd as he walked off the Timmons Arena court for the last time to more greetings from the coaching staff and bench. After the game, Richey said a made 3-pointer was the only way for Beans to close his home playing career.

That shot was so important to the team because of how important Beans has been to the program. While he hasn't been on the court as much as his fellow three seniors, there's been no more important influence off the court than Beans.

"The key with Geoff is it's always about the program. A lot of people say 'it's always about winning,' but I think this goes a step above that," Richey said. "The other day at ETSU, he got to play two minutes. He was as fired up after that game as anybody in that locker room."

Beans' importance to the program dates back to before he ever put on a Furman uniform. He was the first member of this year's senior class to sign with the Paladins, back in November of 2013. The Toledo, Ohio native chose Furman over Wofford among other schools.

"He was the first one to jump on the boat and he was probably the most highly recruited one of this class," Richey said. "He chose to come here even while being recruited by a team (Wofford) that had already won two SoCon championships up the road.
"He saw something here in our vision, our university and our city that made him want to be a part of this."

For Beans, that thought may continue after his Furman days are over.

"I'm a business major. I'm don't know exactly what I want to go into yet but I'm looking into commercial real estate sales," Beans said. "With all the Furman alumni and connections I've gotten, I think I may end up working in Greenville.
"I just want to be able to continue to watch the younger guys continue to carry on the program."

Beans had an impact as a freshman as he made 18 starts and averaged 7.8 points per game. He hit the first three 3-pointers of his college career against Liberty and followed that game with a 21-point performance against Samford. Beans had a run of five consecutive games scoring in double figures in December that season.

While playing time hasn't been as abundant as it was his freshman year, Beans has provided an offensive threat off the bench as he's shot 35.3 percent on 3-pointers and 81.1 percent on free throws in his career. Defense has also improved for Beans during his time at Furman, and he's drawn some big charges this season.

"Each year has provided its own challenges, but everyone on our team knows that their role may shrink a little because of the depth and talent our team has," Beans said. "In order to be on a championship team people have to be okay with that.
"With us, it's been good because everyone's accepted their role. At the same time, everyone's working as hard as they possibly can to make sure when they get that opportunity in the game they can make the most out of it."

Richey said Beans' senior leadership has been on display at key times behind the scenes. Once came after the Paladins' loss at UNCG.

"The day after the Greensboro game, he was the one in the meeting room that spoke up and said what needed to be said," Richey said. "A lot of times coaches are scared to give players a voice because they don't always align with how they view it or see it. Because of how he values the program, what came out of his mouth that day was 100 percent correct."

Beans' message was heard loud and clear. The next time out, the Paladins defeated Western Carolina 100-66. Beans had nine points in 15 minutes off the bench, two of which came on a rare dunk that thrilled the home crowd.

"People have no idea how important Geoff Beans is to this program. ... His leadership this week has been phenomenal," Richey said in the Western Carolina postgame press conference. "This program is indebted to him in a lot of different ways.
"He doesn't get written about a lot, but I'll tell you this. In 10 years, people are going to know who Geoff Beans is. He's going to have an unbelievable future."

The highlight of Beans' on-court career may have come in the culmination of Furman's run at the SoCon Tournament in his freshman year. After Kris Acox went down with an injury in the championship game against Wofford, Beans came on and scored a team-high 15 points to earn a spot on the All-Tournament team.

While no one could've anticipated what kind of good days were ahead for Furman basketball then, that run obviously was a stepping stone in that positive direction. Beans said one key element came into play in Asheville that year that has been perhaps the most vital part of the Paladins' success since.

"As bad as we were our freshman year, the reason why we were so successful in the tournament is that our defense really showed up," Beans said. "It didn't end how we wanted, but the ending was definitely better than the whole season.
"It's been neat to see how through each year, we've gotten better at something. Freshman year, we were just pretty bad but we ended the year well at the tournament. Sophomore year, we set the home win record for the season. Junior year, we made it a focus to win on the road and we set the school record for that."

As the team prepares for the seniors' last shot at a SoCon championship this weekend in Asheville, Beans will be ready to step up however he may be needed. That's what family members do for each other, and that's what Beans considers his teammates and coaches to be.

"All four years, this has been the closest team I've ever been with by far," Beans said. "We're always hanging out together. That's just how our culture is. It's more than just basketball to us, but I think that helps us out on the court."

Furman fan events at the SoCon Tournament

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