NGU Band Joins Furman Basketball in NCAA Tournament Appearance
Posted on: March 16, 2023
Tigerville, SC (March 16, 2023) North Greenville University’s (NGU) band will swap its traditional red and black attire for something a little more purple on Thursday.
Led by NGU Band Directors Gary Rhoden and Dr. Darian Washington, 21 NGU students and seven Furman students will play the fight song for the Paladins as the Furman men’s basketball team takes the court against fourth-seeded Virginia in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Orlando, Florida.
The North Greenville band is filling in for Furman’s band, which is playing in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin, Ireland this week.
“In late January, we got a call that we might be needed,” Rhoden said. “Once we got the go-ahead on our end, I asked the kids if they wanted to go. There was a pretty enthusiastic ‘yes.’”
Furman’s trip to Ireland had been planned for more than two years, so when the Paladins concluded a stellar 27-7 season and secured an NCAA Tournament appearance, they knew needed some help from their neighbors.
“We’re so close. While Furman is a Division I school and NGU is a Division II school, we’re just 20 minutes down the road,” Rhoden said. “As far as the band world goes, there’s not enough of us to not help each other out. We have to be there when somebody needs help. The Furman basketball team needed somebody, and we were happy to step in.”
Knowing a trip to Orlando was on the line, the NGU band might’ve been cheering harder for Furman than they typically do during the Southern Conference championship game.
“The students actually had a watch party in the lobby of the music building,” he said. “There was definitely a big reaction.”
NGU’s band led Paladin fans during the selection show on Sunday, and hopped on a plane with the team on Tuesday.
“It’s been a whirlwind. We’ve never done anything with the NCAA on this scale. It’s a lot of being told where to go and what to do. We’ve just been holding on for the ride,” Rhoden said.
“I’m so happy for the students,” Washington added. “A lot of them have never been on a plane before and this is the biggest crowd they’ve played in front of in their lives. It’s a wonderful experience for them and they’re having a wonderful time.”
With North Greenville alum Bob Richey (’06) coaching the Paladins and Rhoden, a Furman alum, leading the marching band, the connection between the two schools runs deep.
“It’s crazy how this turned out. I can only thank the good Lord that He’s put me in a position to do something like this,” he said. “I never thought in a million years that I would be taking the Furman band and the NGU band to Orlando to play at the NCAA tournament, but it’s an exciting thing for our students.”
While NGU’s band will be wearing purple on Thursday, they’ll be adding their own flair to the performance.
“We’ve learned some of what Furman does. We’ve got some rehearsals planned to get some things ironed out, but by and large, this is still the North Greenville band,” Rhoden said. “We’re going to be doing a lot of the things we do at home, because it’s what we do well.”
Rhoden and Washington hope the band’s efforts are enough to lead Furman to an upset victory over the Cavaliers.
“The students are ready,” Washington said. “We know we’re a Division II school, but we want to show everyone that we’re prepared and we’re just as good.”
“We’re just happy to be here. I would love for Furman to become the upset darlings and for us to play two games down here. That plane ride back would be crazy,” Rhoden added.
About North Greenville University
NGU offers more than 125 areas of study across certificate, bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and early college opportunities. Online. In-person. At our main campus in Tigerville, SC, the Tim Brashier Campus in Greer, SC, or several educational centers around the U.S. One university, many locations. Every day. Epic. To learn more, visit ngu.edu.