Days away from signing pro contract, Thornwell makes return to Columbia

Days away from signing pro contract, Thornwell makes return to Columbia

**Story and photo by Kyle Heck**

Just days after wrapping up an impressive season for the Los Angeles Clippers in the NBA Summer League, Sindarius Thornwell was back in Columbia playing basketball.

No, it wasn't for the Gamecocks.

Thornwell was at the annual SC Pro-Am, showing support to former South Carolina point guard Carey Rich and his summer league. Thornwell was a second-round draft pick in this year's NBA Draft and earned a spot on the Clippers' roster after his impressive summer campaign.

However, that didn't stop him from going to the SC Pro-Am, just like he's done for the past few years.

"I'll be back every chance I get," Thornwell said. "I'm from South Carolina so I'm going to always be back and go out to the communities and cities."

After an illustrious career that he capped by leading the Gamecocks to their first-ever Final Four, Thornwell was taken with the 48th overall pick in the NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks. The SEC Player of the Year was promptly traded to the Clippers, an organization that was deeply impressed by Thornwell's game and intangibles. 

"We wanted to add tough, competitive, hard-playing, high basketball-IQ players to compliment our team,"  Clippers' Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Lawrence Frank said after acquiring Thornwell. 

In four Summer League games, Thornwell averaged 14.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.8 steals per game. He made quite the NBA debut, racking up 26 points on 6-for-13 shooting to go with five rebounds and two steals. The Lancaster native has always had a knack for getting to the free throw line, and that was no different in his debut. He attempted 18 free throws and made 14 of them.

"Yeah it did," Thornwell said when asked if his first summer game surprised him. "I was a little nervous, but once the game got going and I got to the free throw line, I got real comfortable."

Thornwell travels back out to Los Angeles on July 30 to officially sign his contract with the Clippers. 

"I'm going back early so I can spend a lot of time working out with the trainers and working on my shot," Thornwell said. 

Like most players coming out of college into today's NBA, perfecting the three-point shot is a big priority. It's a farther shot than it is in college so it takes some getting used to. However, Thornwell impressed in the games he played in the Summer League.

"Everyone is good and can play at a high level every night, so it prepared me going into the season that it's going to be the same way," Thornwell said.

Thornwell credits the support group he had around him at South Carolina and during the draft process for his success. He also worked extremely hard throughout his career. Playing in the NBA was always a dream, but the Gamecock legend showed tremendous improvement during all four years on campus.

Despite all of his success in college, Thornwell was just a second round pick. He's continued to prove his doubters wrong and hopes that is a trend that continues.

"Everyone was talking about Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram and those guys, but I'm on the same court and they can't ignore what I'm doing," Thornwell said.