Furman Hall of Famer Jackie Carson recently completed her 12th year — and winningest campaign — as head coach of the Paladin women’s basketball.
Representing the program for which she once starred as a player, Carson directed Furman to a 20-win season in 2021-22, one that saw the Paladins ride a strong second half of the schedule to a Southern Conference Tournament runner-up finish and fifth post-season berth under her guidance. A 69-61 win over Northeastern in the Women’s Basketball Invitational (WBI) secured Furman’s first 20-win season in the Carson era and third such campaign in program history. In addition, the Paladins’ 10-4 SoCon slate was its best in almost a decade.
Furman’s success this past season was fueled by a number of Carson players, spanning the classes from fifth-year senior to freshman. Chief among them was fifth-year senior forward Tierra Hodges, who fashioned a brilliant final campaign for the purple and white by earning consensus SoCon Player of the Year honors in separate voting by league head coaches and media. The league leader in scoring (18.1 ppg) and rebounding (11.8 rpg), Hodges, who posted 22 double-doubles (points-rebounds) during the season and 55 of the unique statistical doubles in her career, became the first Carson product — and fifth in program history — to garner league player of the year honors en route to finishing her Paladin tenure as Furman’s all-time leading rebounder (1,303 rebs.) and ranked fourth in scoring (1,719 pts.).
Furman’s outstanding 2021-22 season also produced two other second team All-SoCon performers in sophomore guard Tate Walters, who averaged 12.9 ppg and a league best 137 assists, and forward Grace van Rij, who fashioned a strong senior season (10.0 ppg). First-year guard Niveyah Henley also extended Carson’s streak of producing SoCon All-Freshman Team performers to 12 consecutive seasons when she was selected to the squad.
Over the past decade-plus Carson has provided stability and success to a Furman program that had suffered through five consecutive losing seasons prior to her return to the fold in 2010.
Furman’s turnaround under her direction began almost the day she returned to campus. In her first year the Paladins, bereft of any recruiting additions and a SoCon coaches preseason No. 10 pick, started 6-3 in league play, highlighted by a home win over eventual league regular season champion Appalachian State. In winning five of its final six games to finish with 14 victories, thereby doubling the program’s win total from the year before, Furman leaped from 11th to fifth place in the standings and jumped from a 4-16 league mark to a 10-10 SoCon ledger, making the Paladins to league’s most improved team in 2010-11.
The strides continued in year two as Furman, with only one senior starter and a host of newcomers, again won 10 league games, including a 75-61 triumph over Chattanooga in Greenville that halted an embarrassing series losing skid to the Mocs. In addition, the Paladins defeated Conference USA member Marshall and picked up their first SoCon Tournament victory under Carson.
In 2013-14, the first big dividend arrived with an 18-13 season, highlighted by an 11-2 home record and second place league finish — the program’s best in over a decade. In addition, the Paladins produced two All-SoCon First Team selections for the first time since the 2004-05 campaign and landed a bid to the NIT — another program first. Those accomplishments netted Carson consensus coach of the year honors, making her the first person in league women’s basketball history to garner both player of the year and coach of the year accolades.
The success continued during the 2014-15 campaign as the Paladins went 19-14 and secured the program’s first bid in the Women’s Basketball Invitational (WBI) Tournament.
The 2015-16 season featured a 70-49 win over Clemson, and the next year the Paladins dealt Chattanooga, the eventual SoCon Tournament champion, their first league loss of the season with a 65-48 triumph in Greenville, halting the Mocs’ seven-game winning streak.
In 2017-18 Furman notched its first season sweep of Chattanooga since 2002 on the way to a second round appearance in the WBI. That set the stage for a strong campaign the following year that saw the Paladins post a 19-14 overall record, 9-5 SoCon worksheet, second place regular season finish, appearance in the SoCon Tournament championship game, and second Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT) appearance in the Carson era.
Furman went 19-12 in 2019-20, highlighted by an 11-3 home record, FAU Holiday Classic championship, and pair of victories over SoCon Tournament champion Samford.
That Carson could quickly transform Furman’s basketball fortunes may have surprised many but not those who know her and appreciate her talent and commitment to recruiting, on-the-floor coaching, preparation, intensity, execution and overall passion for the game. It is those same qualities, underscored by a deep and abiding dedication to her players and to their athletic and intellectual development, that has bodes well for the future of Paladin women’s basketball.
After bringing in a solid recruiting class in her first year that included 2011-12 SoCon Freshman of the Year forward Brittany Hodges, Carson’s second recruiting haul stoked the embers of excitement by including 2012-13 SoCon Freshman of the Year forward Holli Wilkins, who graduated as Furman’s fifth all-time leading scorer. Among the newcomers featured in her third class was standpoint point guard Whitney Bunn, a consensus three-time All-SoCon selection who blew away Furman’s assist standards on the way to brilliant career that saw her finish as the Paladins’ fifth all-time leading scorer (1,538 points) despite suffering a career ending injury seven games prior to season’s end.
In 2017-18, Furman produced three All-SoCon performers for only the second time in program history. The trio included forward Cierra Carter, who finished her career as the program’s 10th all-time leading scorer (1,383 points) and fifth in rebounding, guard Le’Jzae Davidson, and forward Celena Taborn.
Four Paladins collected All-SoCon recognition in 2018-19, led by Davidson and Taborn.
Davidson concluded her Furman career in 2020 as the program’s all-time 3-point leader and ranking third in scoring with 1,753 points. Taborn, meanwhile, finished her Paladin tenure in 2021 as the program’s all-time leader in field goal percentage (.633).
Headlining the shortened 2020-21 campaign was the selection of consensus All-SoCon forward Tierra Hodges and SoCon Freshman of the Year guard Sydney James.
All told during Carson’s tenure Furman has produced 19 All-SoCon performers, 12 All-Tournament players, three Freshmen of the Year, and 12 SoCon All-Freshman Team selections, and a player of the year.
In addition to the on-court performance of her squads, Carson has taken an active leadership role in a number of areas, serving on the NCAA Women’s Basketball Oversight Committee and WBCA Board of Directors. In addition, she serves on the Southern Conference Racial Equity Task Force and is president of the Women of Color Coaching Network.
A Woodbridge, Va., native, and 2000 Furman graduate who served as an assistant coach at James Madison for five seasons (2006-10), including the final two as associate head coach and last four as recruiting coordinator, Carson was named Furman’s ninth head coach in April of 2010.
During Carson’s five-year tenure at James Madison, the Dukes posted a 125-40 record (.758), including a 74-16 mark (.822) in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), and advanced to postseason tournament play each year. The string of postseason berths included NCAA Tournaments in 2007 and ‘10, as well as Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) appearances in 2006, ’08, and ’09.
In 2009-10 the Dukes went 26-7 overall and 16-2 in CAA action en route to league regular season and tournament championships. Among the noteworthy wins were triumphs over nationally 13th-ranked Virginia (75-73), Georgetown (79-76), and Virginia Tech (66-59).
In 2007, her second season on staff, James Madison posted a 27-6 slate and advanced to the NCAA Tournament after a regular season that featured wins over Clemson and Wake Forest.
That same year she was among a select number of coaches chosen to participate in the Black Coaches Association’s “Achieving Coaching Excellence” program. The program, for ethnic minority male and female basketball coaches, is a collaborative effort of the BCA, the NCAA Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the NCAA Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee, and the NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics.
It was during her time at James Madison that Carson gained notoriety on the national level with a “Rising Star” Award, presented to five associate or assistant coaches by BasketballScoop.com and ONS Performance in recognition of recruiting, player development, team development/scouting, leadership, and administration.
Prior to going to James Madison, she spent two seasons as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Bucknell (2004-05). In her short tenure there she played a key role in recruiting Patriot League All-Rookie Team honorees Hope Foster and Kesha Champion, who went on to garner league player of the year and defensive player of the year honors, respectively, while leading the Bison to a 20-11 campaign and Patriot League crown in 2007.
Carson began her coaching career as an assistant with the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Fairfax (Va.) Stars, helping the squad, which featured future collegiate stars Marissa Coleman (Maryland), Brittany Mitch (Duke), Abby Robertson (Virginia), and Laura Haskins (Virginia Tech), to the 2003 15-Under AAU National Championship.
One of the finest players in Furman women’s basketball history, she led the Paladins in scoring and rebounding and earned First Team All-SoCon honors and team MVP accolades as a sophomore, junior, and senior. The standout forward was named SoCon Player of the Year in 1998 and 1999, and served as team captain her final two seasons. She also garnered three SoCon Academic Honor Roll tabs.
As a freshman, she helped Furman to a SoCon regular season championship and as a senior keyed the Paladins to a 20-11 season, SoCon Tournament championship, and the program’s second NCAA Tournament appearance.
Many of her statistics rank among the finest ever posted by a Paladin, including points (1,920/2nd), points per game (16.8/4th), rebounds (1,057/3rd), rebounds per game (9.3/7th) and blocks (99/4th). She scored a school record 37 points against Middle Tennessee State her junior year, and her 724 career free throws still ranks as a program standard, as does her 12 SoCon Player of the Week scrolls. She previously held Furman’s record for career double-doubles (points-rebounds) with 52 before Tierra Hodges surpassed the mark during the 2021-22 season.
Honored as Furman’s 1999 Edna Hartness Female Athlete of the Year, she was inducted into the University’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005 in her first year of eligibility and in November of 2009 became only the third player in program history to have her jersey (No. 22) retired.
Following graduation in 2000 with a degree in health and exercise science, she played for professional teams in Belgium and Israel for two years before entering the coaching ranks.
Carson and husband, Rob, who serves as Associate Athletics Director for Academic Success Diversity, Inclusion and Engagement, have two daughters — Londyn Elaun Carson and Lathyn Ellea Carson.
Elite Camp Coordinator
Pierre Curtis is in his ninth season with the Paladin women’s basketball program, and third as the associate head coach. He also serves as the program's recruiting coordinator.
A 2010 graduate of James Madison University where he starred as a player for the Dukes, Curtis coached women’s basketball at Harrisonburg (Va.) High School for two seasons prior to coming to Furman, helping direct his squad to a pair of region playoff appearances.
Curtis played professionally in Germany during the 2010-11 season before beginning his coaching career. He also counts extensive summer camp experience with numerous colleges and work with the prestigious Boo Williams AAU organization.
A native of Denver, Colorado, he was a two-year starter at Denver East High School, where he keyed his squad to a state championship and No. 12 national ranking his junior year. He earned all-state and Denver Player of the Year honors as a senior before enrolling at Charis Prep School in Goldsboro, N.C., where he averaged 22.0 points and 8.0 rebounds while pacing his squad to a No. 14 national ranking.
He signed with James Madison and went on to register 1,237 points and complete his career as the Dukes’ all-time leader in starts, assists, and steals.
Holder of a bachelor’s degree in sports management from JMU, he has a daughter, Sydney.
Team Camp Coordinator
Ashley Johnson is in her first season as an assistant coach with the Furman women's basketball program.
Johnson comes to Furman following three years as director of player development at LSU. In her role as director of player development at LSU, she organized and executed recruiting strategies that helped the Tigers sign the nation's No. 1 junior college player, Sarah Shemasti, as well as Ajae Petty, Sharna Ayres, and Treasure Thompson.
She also oversaw the development of second team All-Southeastern Conference Ayana Mitchell and Khayla Pointer, All-SEC defender Faustine Aifuwa, and Louisiana Sportswriter Newcomer of the Year, Aawa Trasi.
Her other key duties included providing input in coaching meetings on practices and game planning, generating post-game analytics, assisting in the creation of in-depth scouting reports, scheduling of non-conference games, and assisting in the development, promotion, and supervision of summer camps and clinics. In addition, she worked with the Tigers' compliance, academic advising, and sports communications operations on a myriad of tasks involving the basketball program, players, and coaches.
Prior to her LSU experience, Johnson served as an assistant coach at Winthrop for the 2016-17 season, and as director of program development at the University of Central Florida (2014-16).
Johnson starred as a collegiate basketball player at LSU from 2004-08, serving as team co-captain her junior and senior seasons. During her four-year tenure she helped the Tigers post a 125-21 record, claim three SEC regular season championships, and make four Final Four appearances.
She graduated from LSU with a degree in marketing and minor in sports studies, and later added a master of business administration from LSU in 2010.
From 2010-13 she worked in the information systems sector with Northrup Grumman, serving as a bid contract coordinator, international trade compliance analyst, and as pricing analyst.
During her time in the private sector, Johnson stayed connected to basketball, serving as an assistant coach with the Fairfax (Va.) Stars Girls 16U Nike EYBL squad. She returned to the sport full-time in August of 2013, taking an assistant coaching position at Stephenson (Ga.) High School.
She also served as manager of educational programs with Points Of Light in Atlanta, Ga., from October 2013 thru April of 2014.
Individual/Little Baller Camp Coordinator
Reeves came to Furman after spending the 2020-21 season as an assistant at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark.
"I am extremely excited to welcome Amber to the Furman women's basketball family," said Carson. "An assistant coach search this late in the summer can be a challenge, but we really hit the jackpot with Amber. I have been fortunate to get to know her more over the past year and know, without a doubt, she is a rising star in this business."
In addition to her assistant coaching duties at Ouachita Baptist, Reeves served as recruiting coordinator and strength & conditioning coach for the basketball program.
Her on-court concentration included guards and post coach. Guard Makayla Miller was named second team all-conference, as was teammate post Eden Crow, who paced the league in rebounding.
Prior to her stint at Ouachita Baptist, she spent a year at Youngstown State as director of basketball operations.
Reeves began her coaching career as a graduate assistant at her alma mater, the University of North Carolina Wilmington in May of 2017.
She took part in the Women's Basketball Coaches Association's (WBCA) "So You Want To Be A Coach" in Dallas, Texas, as well as the assistant coaches professional development seminar sponsored by A Step Up, Inc.
A native of Marietta, Ga., Reeves enjoyed an solid playing career at UNCW, where she was a four-year starter and served as team captain her senior year. A three-time selection to the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) All-Academic Team, she captured the Arthur Ashe, Jr. Sports-Scholar Award and was UNCW's NCAA Woman of the Year nominee as a senior.
She graduated summa cum laude from UNCW in May 2017 with a bachelor's degree in biology and was accorded a master's degree in chemistry, also from UNCW, in August of 2020.
Lauren Bornstein is in her first season as the director of operations for the Furman women's basketball program.
Prior to accepting the position at Furman, she served in a similar capacity at Cleveland State University the last two years.
While at Cleveland State, Bornstein negotiated, planned, and coordinated all aspects of team travel, managed inventory of team equipment and apparel, served as the program's liaison to a number of internal department operations, and coordinated scheduling of visiting teams, guests, and administration on game days.
From 2018 through 2019 she served as a basketball operations assistant with the BIG EAST Conference, working extensively with the league's men's and women's tournaments, as well as compiling comparative analytics for men's basketball scheduling and NET Rankings. In addition, she compiled regular season data for use in NCAA Tournament selection and archived game footage and highlights for use on the BIG EAST YouTube channel.
Bornstein worked with Monumental Sports & Entertainment for three years — a tenure that saw he serve the Washington Wizards in a variety of roles, including assisting in the creation of pre-draft player prospect biographies for the 2018 NBA Draft, preparing pregame statistical presentations, ticket deliveries, and coordinating sales events and promotions. Her time at Monumental also saw her work with the WNBA's Washington Mystics in similar capacities.
Bornstein attended the University of Florida, where she served as a women's basketball team manager en route to earning a bachelor's degree in sport management in 2016. She went on to secure a master's degree in tourism administration and sport management from George Washington University.
Kristen Janes joined Furman’s women’s basketball program as director of engagement in August of 2022.
Janes, a May 2021 graduate of Furman with a degree in communications studies, spent the last year at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., pursuing a Master of Arts degree in sports communication & media, which she received last month.
While at Fairfield, she served as lead photographer of the Bridgeport Islanders, the AHL affiliate of the NHL New York Islanders, and also as a media production and marketing coordinator graduate assistant with the Office of Mission Integration at Sacred Heart. In that role she managed social media accounts involving more than 3,000 students and community partners; designed and produced all graphics and digital promotional material with numerous events; and maintained regular communication with academic departments and university administration in nurturing fan engagement opportunities.
In the five months leading up to her graduation from Furman in May of 2021 she worked with the USL League I Greenville Triumph Soccer Club, coordinating media information, executing social media efforts, and photographing games, community events, and merchandise for social and web design usage.
During her time at Furman she served as a sportswriter and photographer for Furman’s student newspaper, The Paladin.
Janes was a Hall of Leaders inductee at Furman and at Sacred Heart was inducted into Lamda Pi Eta National Communications Honor Society.