March 6, 2017
By Brad Muller | More Features
There is no doubt that senior Sindarius Thornwell has made a huge impact on the South Carolina men's basketball program. After leading the Gamecocks in scoring, rebounds and steals, while ranking in the top 10 in the Southeastern Conference in several categories as well, Thornwell has impressed on a national level and established himself as a candidate to be honored as the league's player of the year.
"He is right in the discussion," said CBS college basketball analyst Clark Kellogg. "I don't see how he could not be. He has had consistent performances. He has had humongous performances. Those are the things I look for in a player of the year candidate -- have you been consistent in producing at a high level and have you had an impact in winning consistently? Then you have those moments that just drop peoples' jaws. He has had a few of these. He does a little bit of everything. He leads. He plays both ends of the floor. He rebounds, he scores, and he passes. I think he's one of the best all-around players in the country."
"He's not a legit candidate; he is the SEC Player of the Year," said ESPN College Basketball analyst Sean Farnham. "I'd be shocked if it was anyone else. That's not to disrespect anyone else.
"At the end of the day, you are assessing this on a player who contributes on both ends of the floor beyond just what you see in the box score and beyond the scoring column. You have to also be someone who can lead. He is the best two-way player in the league. He defends and scores. He rebounds the basketball in a way that separates himself. He plays with a great motor. His presence on the floor makes his teammates better. That's an important trait to have if you are going to be an SEC Player of the Year."
He's a guy who can guard multiple positions. He has toughness about him.
Thornwell is the first Gamecock to lead the SEC in scoring in conference games with 22.1 points per game since Devan Downey did it in 2009-10. He trailed Kentucky's Malik Monk by .001 points per game for the overall scoring average title. For head coach Frank Martin, Thornwell has been a key ingredient in revitalizing the program on a national level to where it is poised for a run in the NCAA Tournament.
"He's a winner," Martin said. "He defends four spots. He plays four spots on offense. He understands where everyone's shots are at, not just his. He rebounds. He grabbed 21 against Alabama, which is the best rebounding team in the league. He's a winner. He is about winning. He has worked so hard to become a better player every single year, and he has done that."
Hailing from Lancaster, S.C., and starring at Oak Hill Academy, Thornwell was a high profile prospect four years ago, who chose to stay home. That's just another reason that Thornwell is recognized as a program-changer.
"That goes back to changing the culture," Farnham said. "Once the culture begins to change, you make headway in the recruiting wars. Frank's team has found that talent and has found their stride in terms of getting the players that fit the identity of the program. If you're going to play for Frank, you have to know how to defend. You have to know how to compete and rebound the basketball. Sindarius was the starting point in the change of that culture. The legacy that he leaves will be whether the players after him remember how hard he worked to become the player he was. That will be his true legacy at South Carolina."
"There isn't any question about that," Kellogg said. "You can look at any program and mark any significant recruits in their history. In Sindarius' case, he was a high-level in-state prospect who elected to stay at home. That's an important piece in building a program. Recruiting is the lifeline of college athletics, so when you get a player of that caliber, it should bode well, not just for your present, but hopefully you can leverage that going forward as a program."
Thornwell is focused on guiding the Gamecocks for the upcoming postseason, but looking ahead, the experts are sure he will certainly have opportunities to play professionally when his days with the Gamecocks are finished.
"Cleary he can play after college, whether it's the NBA or somewhere else," Kellogg said. "He has a chance. He is a utility guy. He's a guy who can guard multiple positions. He has toughness about him. He has good size. I think he would be an intriguing prospect.
"Often times if you are not drafted, you can pick where you might fit in and where your best chance might be. I think he will certainly get a good look. He has the ingredients that the pros look for in terms of versatility, plays both ends, and has led his team in an impressive way. Those are all things that resonate for the next level. I wouldn't be surprised if he was able to find a roster spot in the league. He has a lot of attributes that can serve him well."
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