Gamecocks in the Garden; Thornwell gets his shot at the World’s Most Famous Arena

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“The biggest thing for me is I get to play in the Garden,” senior Sindarius Thornwell said in October when previewing the 2016-17 season.

And then, less than two weeks before heading to MSG, Thornwell was suspended indefinitely. Crushed. Angry. Disappointed. From the sound of it, no one was more upset with the situation than Thornwell himself.

“It killed me,” Thornwell said of missing the Gamecocks’ game against Seton Hall in the Garden. “When we had shootaround that day, that was like my game. I got to shoot and play. I was like a kid on the court.”

RELATED: Gamecocks’ Sindarius Thornwell finally set to play at The Garden

And now, more than three months later, the SEC Player of the Year is getting his chance at the World’s Most Famous Arena, on an even bigger stage.

The spotlight will shine bright on Thornwell as he leads his team on the court Friday night for its Sweet 16 matchup against Baylor.

As a Carolina fan, I couldn’t be happier for the Gamecocks’ senior forward. He didn’t let his early season adversity stop him from achieving the conference’s highest individual honor.

As a sports fan, Thornwell’s redemption story is second to none this season. Psyched to see the next chapter on Friday.

The Gamecocks arrive

South Carolina arrived in The Big Apple on Wednesday afternoon, complete with an outstanding Taylor Swift soundtrack and slick Justin King-produced video …

This is exactly the type of content and media that fans (both of the Gamecocks and the sport in general) love and share. A brilliant strategy to grow the USC brand.

‘He’s awesome, baby!’

“Sindarius Thornwell has been unbelievable averaging 26.5 points per game in the first two rounds and showing why he was player of the year in the SEC,” college basketball luminary Dick Vitale told SEC Country. “Thornwell really proved he is legit as the MVP of the conference.”

Vitale continued on to praise coach Frank Martin’s job in Columbia — citing the Gameocks’ physicality as the most impressive component of their tournament run.

RELATED: Dick Vitale on Sindarius Thornwell: ‘He is legit as the MVP of the conference’

“Their style of play seems so uniquely different now than where it was in the middle of the season when they were really physical and played in the 60s and now they’re in the 90s,” said the legendary broadcaster. “That’s unbelievable when you think about what they’re doing.”

Good news for the Lady Gamecocks

With senior center Alaina Coates already out, things looked like they could get even more dire for the Lady Gamecocks as they prepare for the Sweet 16.

RELATED: Allisha Gray ‘going to go’ for South Carolina women’s basketball

Alas, coach Dawn Staley delivered some good news on Wednesday:

“She is going to go,” Staley said in reference to junior guard Allisha Gray. “She’s not going to let this opportunity pass her by. It wasn’t her knee. That was the great news about it.”

There was concern that Gray had injured her knee in the Gamecocks’ second-round win against Arizona State last weekend.

Another candidate at BUCK

Griffin Gentry is one of the second-year players expected to add depth to the defense. (Hale McGranahan/SEC Country)

Redshirt freshman DE Griffin Gentry is on the move.

According to sophomore Daniel Fennell, Gentry has switched over to the BUCK linebacker position, behind sophomore DJ Wonnum.

RELATED: Griffin Gentry changing positions

“… To be honest with you, he is the BUCK,” said defensive line coach Lance Thompson in reference to Wonnum earlier this offseason.

Gentry will compete with Fennell and incoming freshman Brad Johnson for playing time behind Wonnum.

The next Greenwood star for the Gamecocks?

One of the top prospects in the Palmetto State updated his status on Wednesday …

RELATED: The latest on 3-star WR Sam Pinckney

“My recruiting process is still open to anyone and everyone,” said 3-star WR Sam Pinckney. “I don’t really have a top. I do have a top 3: Florida State, South Carolina and LSU, but it’s still open to everyone.”

Pinckney is coming off a junior season in which he caught 72 passes for 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns for Greenwood High School. The Gamecocks are no strangers to the Greenwood Eagles — the program produced former Gamecocks DJ Swearinger, Kelcy Quarles and Marquavius Lewis.

Though LSU is trending in 247Sports’ Crystal Ball, Pinckney did call South Carolina “basically a second home.”

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