Thornwell becomes first Gamecock taken in NBA Draft in 11 years

Thornwell becomes first Gamecock taken in NBA Draft in 11 years

**Story by Kyle Heck/photo by Jenny Dilworth**

After leading South Carolina to its first-ever Final Four, Sindarius Thornwell's tremendous year continued on Thursday as he became the first Gamecock drafted into the NBA in 11 years.

Thornwell was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 48th pick in the second round. However, shortly after that, reports announced that Thornwell's rights were traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. The senior will now apparently travel out west to join Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. 

Thornwell teammate P.J. Dozier was not selected in the draft, but has reportedly signed a free-agent contract to join the L.A. Lakers, possibly putting the two former South Carolina stars together in the Los Angeles market. As a second-round pick, Thornwell will not have a guaranteed contract, meaning he and Dozier must both make their respective teams during training camp. 

Thornwell was one of the most intriguing players in the entire NBA Draft. Nearly every mock draft you read spoke of the potential that the Lancaster native had. Some people went as far as to compare him to Golden State's Draymond Green, pointing to his do-it-all game and physicality. Thornwell was a highly-recruited player out of high school and started more games for the Gamecocks than any other player in program history.

Thornwell was the catalyst for South Carolina during its Final Four run, and the senior became a household name across the nation. He finished his career third on the program charts with 1,941 career points. The SEC's MVP averaged 21.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game this past year, and the postseason recognition allowed Thornwell to burst into NBA Draft projections.

"Just a very, very tough defender," NBA analyst Jay Bilas said of Thornwell. "He's going to go into a man's league in the NBA, and he's man enough to handle it. He's absolutely a man among boys at the college level and did an amazing job in the NCAA Tournament." 

With Thornwell, it was hard to find anyone who said something bad about the senior. He did absolutely everything for the Gamecocks, scoring from inside and outside, rebounding, great defense, and as icing on the cake, he was also a great leader for his team.

Thornwell was by far the most important player on a team that made the Final Four, and that says a lot about the impact he has on a team. Because of that, it wasn't necessarily surprising that Thornwell went before his teammate, P.J. Dozier. 

Thornwell will immediately help an NBA team on the defensive end. He also became a legitimate three-point threat this past year, shooting 39.2 percent from distance. Add that to the fact that Thornwell already has the body of an NBA guard, and he is intriguing indeed.

Thornwell is an extremely physical player who has an innate ability to draw fouls. He took a whopping 259 free throws for the Gamecocks in 31 games. The one drawback that likely kept Thornwell out of the first round is he doesn't have the pure athleticism that lottery picks have (and NBA teams love). 

However, all any player asks for is a chance, and Thornwell now has that chance.