Birmingham, Ala. — Alabama players erupted inside their team hotel on Sunday after learning they had earned the No. 1 seed in this year’s NCAA tournament. Moments later, a small cheer was heard when the rest of the south row came out. It came from graduate transfer forward Noah Gurley, who could hardly contain his excitement after realizing he was getting a chance to play for his former team.
The first round game between No. 4 seed Virginia and No. 13 seed Furman won’t get as much publicity as other matchups in this year’s tournament. However, for former Paladin Noah Gurley, it’s just the first step in an unlikely reunion.
“I celebrated,” Furman transfer Gurley said when asked about his reaction to seeing the Paladins in the same bracket as his Crimson Tide. “You can ask anybody here, I was cheering for them. I’m really cheering for them.”
It’s going to take a bit of a March-Madness spell, but if Furman can pull off a pair of upsets and Alabama handles business in its opening two games, the two teams will square off next week during the Sweet 16 in Louisville, Kentucky.
No one is predicting the matchup, but Gurley is certainly pulling for it.
“I hope we play them,” Gurley said with a smile. “I want to see him win. He’s my brother out there. I love him.”
Shortly after the bracket was revealed, Gurley had to text his former teammates. He’s still close to Paladins starters Mike Bothwell, Jalen Slauson and Garrett Hein and even keeps up with walk-on Rhett Lister. In addition to catching up with his friends, he also reached out to his former coach, Bob Ritchie, to wish him luck in the first two rounds.
Richie Fuhrman became head coach during Gurley’s first season with the Paladins in 2017–18, developing the forward from an unranked prospect to an All-Southern Conference selection in four years. During his time at Greenville, South Carolina, Gurley started 83 of 88 games, totaling 1,118 points and 405 rebounds while shooting 49.8% from the floor and 34.4% from beyond the arc.
“I am not who I am without Furman,” Gurley said. “I learned a lot there. I’ve grown a lot as a player. It’s 100% the reason I’m here. I don’t take anything for granted. That’s why I’m a proud Furman alum.”
Gurley transferred to Alabama in 2021 over offers that included Auburn, Duke, Florida, Marquette, Miami, San Diego State and Tennessee, with the Crimson Tide selecting among the top eight. After starting 14 games over 33 games last year, he served more as a reserve this season, averaging 4.9 rebounds over 15.4 minutes per game off the bench.
Despite a diminished role on the court, the graduate has contributed to Alabama’s historic run this year, providing veteran leadership while serving as the most reliable shooter in the Tide’s frontcourt. He averaged 6.0 points and 3.7 rebounds while shooting 4 of 7 from beyond the arc during Alabama’s title run in the SEC Tournament last weekend. This included 11 points and three 3’s during the Crimson Tide’s 72–49 victory over Mississippi State.
Last week, Alabama head coach Nate Oates shared a story from recent days when he found Gurley sweating hours after practice. After questioning the forward, Gurley informed his coach that he had completed an additional shooting workout to fine-tune his game prior to tournament play.
Oates said after last week’s game against Mississippi State, “I think he’s the epitome of our team, to be honest with you.”
Gurley says the No. 1 factor in transferring to the Crimson Tide was the opportunity to earn a business degree at Alabama. However, playing for Oates and having the opportunity to shine on college basketball’s biggest stage was also at the top of the list. He’ll have that chance again this month, starting Thursday when No. 1 seed Alabama (29-5) plays against No. 16 seed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (24-10) at 1:45 p.m. at Birmingham Legacy Will start the tournament inside. Arena.
With a little bit of luck and a little bit of chaos, he might even get the opportunity to share the spotlight with his former Furman teammates.
“Watch out for them,” Gurley said with a grin. “They play fast and they shoot them 3s. I wouldn’t be surprised if they beat Virginia, to be honest. I wouldn’t be surprised at all. The way they play it’s smart basketball, it’s good basketball.” . They are also difficult to locate. They are going to surprise some people.”