The 2017 NBA Draft is set for Thursday, June 22nd. As the stars of the college game get ready to find out where they will begin their NBA journey, CBS Local Sports’ “My Life As” series will give them an opportunity to talk about how they got to this point and what they expect from the future in their own words.
Today, we hear from South Carolina senior Sindarius Thornwell, who helped lead his team to a magical Final Four run this season, the first in school history. Over the course of his four years, Thornwell helped turn the Gamecocks program around from being under .500 his first season to the Final Four run this year. In the process, he won the SEC’s Player of the Year award as a senior and now looks to make his impression on the NBA. You may remember him from the Gamecocks run to the Final Four this year. He spoke to us about that Final Four run, the turnaround he helped the program make and his expectations for the next step in his career.
My mom bought me a basketball hoop when I was young and, I remember being out there every day playing on it, shooting around. My uncle started spending time with me out there, playing basketball and working on my game. My love for the game just built from there.
I always knew that I wanted to play a professional sport when I was growing up, I just didn’t know what it was going to be. When I was younger, I was stuck between football and basketball in terms of which one I wanted to pursue to the professional level. Eventually, my talent in basketball won out over football and that’s the path I chose to chase.
It wasn’t until my freshman year of college however that I realized that I could possibly turn the dream of being a professional player into a reality. I had a great year my freshman year of college (13.4 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 3.0 APG, SEC All-Freshman team) and that’s when all of the NBA talk really started. I had always dreamed of the possibility, but it wasn’t really until that moment, when everybody started talking to me about it after my freshman year, that I realized it could be a reality.
The reason I chose to go to South Carolina was Coach Frank. His personality, what he stands for, the relationship that he has with his players all really spoke to me. I also wanted to be a part of something where I could come back years later and say that I helped build that. South Carolina was a great opportunity to do that. I’m from South Carolina (Lancaster) and they needed someone to come in and help start something. I looked at South Carolina as a great opportunity with Coach Frank.
It was crazy to see the turnaround that we helped create at South Carolina. This season, we were talking all the time about how we remember games being empty when we first got there. Nobody came. Then, this year, we’re in the home games and we can barely hear ourselves talking to each other standing right next to each other during the games. It just shows that hard work pays off. We all stayed committed and locked into our goal which was to make it to the tournament.
Now that I’ve been getting ready for the NBA, Coach Frank’s words of advice for me were simple: work hard. Work hard, play defense. He’s always helped me to stay humble and work hard and he’s continued that as I get ready for the next level.
As I look at the NBA I think I can fit at any of the wing positions. I believe I can play the one through the three. I mainly played the two in college, but I feel like I’m able to guard multiple positions and I feel like I can be a lockdown defender for somebody. The kind of do-it-all guy that can really help any organization that drafts me.
My main focus right now in working on my game is becoming more proficient and consistent in knocking down that NBA range three pointer. I think I shot it pretty well my senior year (39.5%) but I know it can get better. That way, I can be on the court and not be a liability on offense while providing strong defense on the other end. The game’s changing to a three point shooting game, so I can always get better at that shot.
There’s a big difference between the college three point line and the NBA line. When you look at it, it doesn’t seem that big of a deal it’s just a step back but, once you’re actually back there it’s a big difference. That said, with a little bit more practice, combined with training and exercise, I feel like I will continue to get better from there.
The whole draft experience has been fun for me. Going through it, meeting guys you see on TV like Larry Bird and Danny Ainge, meeting them and having conversations with them is cool. Some teams have their players there, watching the workouts, hanging out with us. Meeting everybody, and the whole experience of working out for teams, it was a dream for everybody at one point, so for me to be living out a dream right now has been great.
For fans of any team that drafts me, you’re getting a player that does a little bit of everything. I feel like that’s what makes me special as a player is that I bring everything: personality, energy, effort. I bring all of that to the court when I play.