By: Sammy Clough, Sports Editor
If you have ever watched a broadcast of a Furman men’s basketball game, then you have probably heard the opposing analysts say some iteration of, “You know, he was a 6 foot 8 inch quarterback at his high school in Illinois.”
Now, senior forward Matt Rafferty is channeling his inard quarterback to lead the Paladins to historic heights. And in the meantime, the Hinsdale, Ill. native finds himself leading the way in the Southern Conference Player of the Year conversation.
Rafferty leads the Paladins in virtually every statistical category. He averages 17 points, 9.1 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game, which are all Paladin highs. He shoots an impressive 63 percent from the field and even swipes close to 3 steals per game.
Rafferty is truly the Paladins’ MVP on a game-to-game basis. He not only leads the charge in the box score, but the Furman offense consistently run through the big man. Rafferty acts as a quarterback of sorts for the Paladins, with options to shoot, pass, screen and handoff. While Rafferty continues to lead Furman to more wins, he is quickly becoming a front-runner to be the SoCon Player of the Year.
As the conference season passes the halfway point, the only real competition Rafferty finds in the Player of the Year discussion are Wofford’s Fletcher Magee and UNCG’s Francis Alonso.
Magee has made his name as the Terriers’ sharpshooter, and most notably passed Davidson’s Stephen Curry for the most career three point field goals made in SoCon history. However, despite Wofford’s hot start in conference play, the reigning SoCon Player of the Year sports the lowest field goal percentage of his four year career.
Alonso, another pure shooter, leads UNCG with 17.4 points per game and joined Magee on last year’s All SoCon First Team.
What really sets Rafferty apart, however, is his importance to his team. He is Furman’s anchor, and when all else fails the Paladins can throw him the ball in the post and trust that something good will happen next.
Rafferty has had quite a few clutch moments this season as well, including assisting on a Clay Mounce game-winning dunk at Loyola-Chicago, and sinking a few huge shots in overtime to take down Villanova.
Matt Rafferty has become a Furman staple and has a great chance to add his name to the list of legends and become the 2019 Southern Conference Player of the Year.