The wait is over in Columbia, South Carolina.
For the first time since December 1, Gamecocks‘ star senior Sindarius Thornwell will be in uniform and back to scoring the basketball. Thornwell was suspended for a violation of athletic department policy.
“Sindarius has taken full responsibility for his mistake that led to his suspension,” said South Carolina head coach Frank Martin in a press release. “He has worked hard over the course of the last few weeks and has done everything we’ve asked of him to make his way back to the court.”
Thornwell, an SEC All-Defensive Team player last season, was off to a terrific start prior to suspension. The 6’5″ guard was averaging 18.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game through the first seven of the season. In addition, he had at least 20 points in four of his seven games played.
Following the beginning of his suspension, The Post and Courier of Charleston reported Thornwell was arrested in May. The four-year starter was driving with a suspended license while possessing marijuana, which resulted in a fine. While no one, including Martin, commented whether the suspension was connected to his arrest, many analysts believed there was a correlation.
During his absence, South Carolina struggled. The Gamecocks were 3-3, as opposed to 7-0, with losses to Seton Hall, Clemson, and Memphis. In fact, if it were not for a second-half resurgence from Duane Notice and PJ Dozier, Frank Martin’s squad would have been defeated by South Florida.
If there has been any positive from Thornwell’s suspension, it is undoubtedly the development of PJ Dozier. The former McDonald’s All-American assumed the responsibility of go-to scorer and thrived in the role, scoring 20+ points in five games and averaging 19.7 points per game in December.
In addition to benefiting Dozier, the senior’s absence has supplied South Carolina with the opportunity to compete without its best player. Outside of a road loss to Memphis, the Gamecocks were defeated by a total of 5 points. Thus, with the team’s competitiveness without Thornwell, their quality of play will only improve with the stat-sheet stuffer back in the lineup.
10-3 South Carolina opens up SEC play January 4 at Georgia. The conference is wide open outside of Kentucky as only Florida (ranked #25) is currently in the Top 25.
The Gamecocks are looking to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004.
– P. Wesner