NEW YORK — What the nation has learned in the last week about Sindarius Thornwell has come as no surprise to people around the SEC. The league knew plenty about his talent long before he burst onto the national scene in the NCAA Tournament.
Florida’s Kasey Hill named the South Carolina senior guard as a player people should know about in the conference before the season started. Now Thornwell is the SEC Player of the Year and is leading the Gamecocks into an Elite Eight clash with the Gators on Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
“I always thought he was very good,” Hill said. “What he’s doing now, he’s being Sindarius and just playing basketball.”
Hill knows better than many what Thornwell is capable of because he played against Thornwell through high school and in summer leagues. He’s not overly surprised by the way Thornwell ran through this season, averaging more than 21 points per game.
“He can do everything,” Hill said. “Shoot, post up, rebound, and he is a competitor. He really wants to win. I think that when you want to compete and win, you do everything.”
It’s that competitive streak that stands out to Hill, and he’s sure that has a lot to do with the way the Gamecocks have played through the first three games of the NCAA Tournament.
Thornwell has scored 77 points in the Gamecocks’ three wins to reach the regional final. Florida forward Justin Leon noted the presence that Thornwell brings, saying when you see the look that Thornwell has been playing with, then you know you are in for a long night.
“He is a leader, and without him, who knows where South Carolina would be?” Leon said. “With him, he’s a tough player and competitor. If he doesn’t have that fire that he has right now and that desire — that pushes the players around him and makes him better — they probably wouldn’t be where they are.”