Team preview: Furman

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(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)

The basketball program at Furman has attained a numbing consistency, winning between 14 and 17 games each of the last five seasons. It's a competitive program that hasn't quite stepped up to the elite, championship level.

So when head coach Larry Davis departed after last season for an assistant position under new coach Mick Cronin at Cincinnati, replacement Jeff Jackson wasn't faced with the rebuilding project of many new coaches. Instead, it's more a matter of tweaking things, of finding that edge the Paladins have been missing.

Jackson, an assistant under Kevin Stallings at Vanderbilt for seven seasons and a Cornell graduate, has a reputation as a strong recruiter, and his background fits Furman's academically demanding standards. He's also inheriting a team that has four solid seniors and great potential, so he could come out looking pretty good in his first SoCon season.

"Coach Davis had done a good job, so it wasn't much of a problem when we moved in," Jackson said. "We've been able to ease into the transition. Our goal is to take it a little further, to year-in and year-out take it to a level where we compete for a Southern Conference championship."

Things were solid enough that Jackson's staff signed only one player -- second signee was released from his scholarship -- but there are still 11 players on scholarship and enough bodies to go around.

Jackson was a valuable part of Stallings' Vanderbilt staff, and has Division I head-coaching experience, albeit at decidedly hockey-dominated New Hampshire, so he feels comfortable running the show at Furman. He'll emphasize fundamentals, especially defense.

"We want to take pride in that," Jackson said. "We want a defense that embraces the notion of stopping people. Everybody feels that way about playing offense, but I want us to be that way defensively, too."