Men’s pregame: Thornwell learning to play college game

dcloninger@thestate.comJanuary 10, 2014 

Jan 8, 2014; Gainesville, FL, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks guard Sindarius Thornwell (0) drives to the basket against the South Carolina Gamecocks during the first half at Stephen C. O'Connell Center.

KIM KLEMENT — USA TODAY Sports

  • LSU (9-4, 0-1 SEC) at SOUTH CAROLINA (7-7, 0-1)

    When: 1:30 p.m. Saturday

    Where: Colonial Life Arena

    TV: SEC TV (WOLO/ABC in Columbia area)

    RADIO: 107.5 FM

    LSU’s probable starters: G Anthony Hickey 5-11 Jr. (9.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg); G Andre Stringer 5-10 Sr. (11.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg); F Johnny O’Bryant 6-9 Jr. (14.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg); F Jordan Mickey 6-8 Fr. (13.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg); F Jarell Martin 6-9 Fr. (7.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg)

    South Carolina’s probable starters: G Duane Notice 6-2 Fr. (6.8 ppg, 2.4 rpg); G Sindarius Thornwell 6-5 Fr. (10.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg); G Brenton Williams 6-1 Sr. (11.1 ppg, 1.7 rpg); F Demetrius Henry 6-9 Fr. (6.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg); F Mindaugas Kacinas 6-7 So. (6.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg)

    Next game: USC tips off at Texas A&M at 8 p.m. on Wednesday.

Sindarius Thornwell was the jewel of Frank Martin’s second recruiting class, the highest-ranked of the pledges who committed early in the process. Befitting the expectations, he came in and played well, starting every game of his burgeoning career and scoring in double figures in six of his first eight games.

He’s averaging 10.7 points, third on the team, and should continue to start.

It’s the only way to work through what most freshmen go through — finding out that it’s not always as easy as it is at first.

“Just learning,” Thornwell said after the Gamecocks’ loss at No. 10 Florida earlier in the week. “I think I got too comfortable because I thought some games would be easier.”

Thornwell’s athleticism was on display early in the year as the Gamecocks were figuring out what they had — there’s only so much that can be gleaned from practice. Martin let his players freelance a bit on offense, working within the system but also auditioning for future roles.

Those roles would be used in situations against certain teams or defenses, or whenever the Gamecocks had to have a basket. Martin had to find out which players he could depend on to score when USC needed points.

Thornwell is one of those players. Able to run around or through defenders to get to the rim or spot up in the corner for a 3-pointer, Thornwell is the classic matchup problem that teams covet. He was able to turn loose early in the schedule, using the “new blood” makeup to get past opponents.

But film gets out. Tendencies are discussed. Thornwell found it harder to get open looks, and wasn’t sure if he should demand the ball, since he was a freshman and there were guys on the team who had been there before.

After the hot start, Thornwell has cooled in scoring and in shot attempts. He was in double figures once in five games, and his shooting read like a mountain road as he went through stretches of tight defense and/or foul trouble. In his final two nonconference games, Thornwell was a combined 2-for-9 for 11 points.

“We have not had time to show Sin, ‘Hey, this is what you’re doing wrong,’ ” associate head coach Matt Figger said earlier in the week. “Typical freshman stuff. He’s got to find his way through it. He’s the one that’s got to make those adjustments. Knowing Sin, I believe he will.”

Thornwell played well against No. 10 Florida earlier in the week, scoring 10 points on 3-of-5 shooting. That he did it against the best defense in the SEC was what USC hopes is a confidence-booster. Going against LSU, a burly but athletic team, the Gamecocks will need Thornwell to establish position and get the Tigers’ defense uncomfortable.

He feels ready.

“It will all come together,” he said. “You just have a short mind. You keep working. That’s all you can do.”

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