The Furman senior forward is a pivotal reason why the Paladins are currently ranked No. 24 in this week’s AP Poll, their first ranking in program history. With a 12-0 record, they join the likes of Kansas, Michigan, Virginia, Nevada, Texas Tech, Buffalo and Houston as the only undefeated teams in the Top 25.
The 6-foot-8, 215-pound Rafferty helped thrust Furman into the national spotlight in November, combining to tally 33 points, 24 rebounds, seven assists and blocked six shots in upset wins over Final Four teams Loyola and defending national champion Villanova in a nine-day period.
“We gained confidence in the Loyola game and knew we could compete at the highest level,” Rafferty said. “Then going into Villanova and going into that environment and proving ourselves again was huge for our program. It was huge for the community. Not many people had heard of Furman before then. It kind of put us on the map, which was amazing.
"It felt good to be a part of something that could bring this community up. I think people are starting to realize what Furman is about, now that we’ve been on SportsCenter a couple of times, which has been crazy. The [big] wins have helped.”
Four years ago, it was a different story. Rafferty’s decision to attend Furman, a private university in Greenville, South Carolina, raised some eyebrows.
At the time, Rafferty’s inside-outside game — along with size and solid build — were starting to attract attention from numerous Division I schools. Despite missing six late-season games in his senior season because of a broken hand, Rafferty closed out his prep career by averaging 19.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game.