COLUMBIA, S.C. — Sindarius Thornwell and the South Carolina basketball team didn’t get too much recognition the first few times they attended the annual Gamecock Gala.
But Thornwell was looking forward to Monday’s event, knowing the men’s basketball team would be featured prominently after its Final Four run among many successful Gamecock programs being celebrated at Colonial Life Arena.
“It has been great to see football keep improving with the young guys and the women finally getting over the edge and winning the national championship, then us making it to the Final Four,” Thornwell said. “Women’s soccer is always good. The baseball team is playing good right now. It’s good and it just shows how good all-around it is.
“You have some schools that you say it’s a basketball school or a football school. Here, all the sports are pretty good here.”
This academic year has seen quite a high level of success for South Carolina athletics in its entirety.
The men’s basketball team made history, making the program’s first Final Four. The women’s basketball team did the same, winning the program’s first national title and setting themselves up for prominence at the Gamecock Gala as well.
The women’s soccer team had an undefeated regular season, reaching the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament before bowing out with a 21-2-1 record. In the spring, the beach volleyball team has won a program-best 21 matches.
“What happens, usually you see it, it filters across into all the sports,” football strength coach Jeff Dillman said. “With confidence, you get success and it keeps building the confidence and keeps strengthening the brand, the Gamecock brand. That helps with all sports, not just with basketball and baseball.
“From a recruiting standpoint, there are kids out there who don’t have a clue what South Carolina looks like and they see the success on national television and it brings them here to see what we really have.”
The football team was no slouch in its first year under Will Muschamp. The Gamecocks won six games in the regular season, including an upset win against Tennessee at Williams-Brice Stadium and enough to earn a bowl berth.
But when it came to highlights from the past year, kicker Elliott Fry and quarterback Jake Bentley pointed to the achievements of the basketball programs.
“It has to be the Final Four for the men’s team and women’s team winning the championship,” Bentley said. “Seeing the way whole school came together and really supported them. Every time they won, the whole school was excited. It wasn’t just the basketball community. It was the city. That was really great to see.”
On Monday, the entire athletic community was recognized for all its accomplishments, with athletes from across all the sports at South Carolina having a chance to come together and celebrating.
“I always feel blessed to be here,” Bentley said. “But just to see everyone doing so well and hopefully we can bring it on into August, but to see every team doing well is great.”