NEW YORK — BJ McKie had never heard of any streak when South Carolina basketball entered the NCAA Tournament in 1997.
He never heard it in 1998 either. But after the Gamecocks won a pair of NCAA Tournament games last weekend, USC’s all-time leading scorer realized just how long there had been a streak without a win in the tournament — and how great it is to see it become history.
“It means a great deal to see our university and where it’s come and where, hopefully, it can continue to go and continue to grow,” McKie said. “Hopefully, this is only the beginning.”
McKie starred for the Gamecocks in the late 1990s and is the lone 2,000-point scorer in school history. He and his USC teammates won the lone SEC basketball championship in school history in 1997, going 15-1 in league play. But they were upset in the first round as a No. 2 seed by No. 15-seed Coppin State.
A year later, the Gamecocks were upset by No. 14 seed Richmond in the first round.
“It was unfortunate what happened both of those years,” McKie said. “Things happened and that’s why you play the games. If we had to wait 20 years in order to have this type of success, it has all been rewarding with this team. It’s a special group. I think it’s a special team. They believe in themselves and I think their confidence has grown since the beginning of the tournament.”
McKie said he couldn’t have believed when South Carolina lost in 1997 and 1998 that it would take 20 more years to finally have a win in the NCAA Tournament. The drought was 44 years in all before it was broken last weekend.
Fittingly, McKie is watching his son be part of the history of it all, as Justin McKie is a senior guard coming off the bench for the Gamecocks. McKie, who is an assistant coach at Charleston Southern, said he is proud of Justin and his fellow seniors, Sindarius Thornwell and Duane Notice, for sticking with the program through tough times earlier in their careers.
Now, seeing Justin reach his goals has been incredibly rewarding for McKie, who was on hand in Greenville, S.C., last weekend when Justin dunked twice in the final 1:24 to help preserve USC’s win against Duke.
“One of the main things that Justin wanted to do outside of graduating in four years and doing those type of things is putting South Carolina back on the map,” McKie said. “I think he’s been a key ingredient. No, he’s not an ultra-scorer or anything like that, but he has found his niche and he has found a way to be a great teammate and help his teammates out and be a leader, on and off the floor. That’s what college is all about. It’s about growth and I’ve seen my son grow, both on and off the floor.”
McKie said he has seen Justin go from “BJ McKie is my father” to being seen as Justin, which means a lot to the Gamecocks senior. And the recent success of the program has only gone to fuel that, as the pair’s conversations have flipped to be more about basketball than they usually tend to be.
That’s what happens with a Sweet 16 and NCAA Tournament run.
“With this going on, we have talked about it a little more,” Justin McKie said. “He is really excited. I love when I can see my dad excited. I’m happy that I can be part of a team that is bringing him and other alumni excitement.”