By: Sammy Clough, Sports Editor
I attended my first Furman basketball game as a freshman in 2016 and the first thing I noticed was the tall, lanky kid putting on a dunk show for pregame warmups. Two years later, that same tall, lanky kid dunked all over a Loyola-Chicago defender to give Furman its first signature win of the season. That kid is Clay Mounce, and he making a name for himself in 2018.
Mounce, a redshirt-sophomore from Mount Airy, N.C., has been a high-flyer since high school. Mounce played his first varsity game for Mount Airy High School as a sophomore, and fittingly his first bucket was a dunk. Now in his sophomore season at Furman, Mounce’s bounce has garnered national attention for the undefeated Paladins.
In his first year at Furman, Mounce received a redshirt to sit out the season and improve his game to compete at the college level. Knowing he could not play in the games, Mounce took this as an opportunity to showcase his abilities during the pregame warmups. A former high school slam dunk contest champion, Mounce charmed Paladin fans with his flashy slams in the layup lines.
However, Mounce was destined to become much more than just a dunking gimmick.
Mounce averaged about 8 minutes per game in his first collegiate season, but did not see much playing time against important opponents. Nevertheless, in a home game against rival Wofford, Clay threw down his first signature slam, a highlight tomahawk dunk over a Terrier defender.
Mounce shined in the few opportunities he was given in his first season, and with the graduation of four of the Paladins’ starters in 2018, his role increasingly expanded going forward.
Furman faced its Greenville neighbor Bob Jones to begin the 2018-2019 season in what would be Mounce’s first career collegiate start. Mounce was perfect from the field and recorded 12 points along with 7 rebounds. His shining moment was still to come, however, as the Paladins traveled to Chicago to face 2018 Final Four participant Loyola-Chicago.
In the final seconds of a tie game against the Ramblers, Mounce cut backdoor and received a pass from senior Matt Rafferty. A Loyola defender rose up with Mounce, but with 1.6 seconds left to play, Mounce slammed the ball home to give the Paladins a 60-58 victory. The dunk went viral on Twitter, and the play was even featured on ESPN’s Sportscenter Top 10. “Being on ESPN was definitely the coolest thing,” said Mounce of the feature, “it was crazy to see all those people talking about it on Twitter afterward too.”
While the game-winning dunk will be a defining moment in his career, Mounce and the Paladins returned to Timmons Arena the next game to face Gardner-Webb. Mounce started the game with an alley-oop slam, and went on to score a career high 26 points in the overtime victory. “It was the first college game I’ve played where I felt like I couldn’t be stopped,” Mounce recalls.
Clay Mounce’s career trajectory seems to indicate there will be many more games to come where he can’t be stopped. Just four days after the Gardner-Webb victory, the Paladins traveled to Villanova and shocked the defending national champions. The win brought national attention to Furman and its undefeated record. Furman and rising star Clay “Bounce” Mounce hope to continue to improve on what has already been a season to remember.