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Senior Day: Don’t forget about Justin McKie!

The Columbia native deserves some attention on his final game in Colonial Life Arena

NCAA Basketball: Georgia at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Between the three seniors on South Carolina’s roster, neither Sindarius Thornwell nor Duane Notice had a tougher task ahead of them than Justin McKie did when he first arrived on campus.

It’s one thing for your Dad to have played for the school, but it’s a totally different thing when every time you look up you see his jersey hanging in the rafters. BJ McKie is South Carolina’s all-time leading scorer, and throughout his entire career Justin’s name could never be brought up without BJ being mentioned as well.

It can be a tough burden to bear, especially when he came out of Irmo as a 2-star prospect and knew he’d probably be playing behind the higher rated Notice and Thornwell.

McKie was Mr. Basketball in the state of South Carolina and never lost a game his senior year — talk about a humbling pill to swallow.

McKie would watch nearly everyone in his recruiting class transfer out of South Carolina, which would have been easy for him to follow suit since Thornwell and Notice were squarely ahead of him. Even while dealing with injuries throughout his career while subsequently watching Thornwell and Notice accelerate in front of him, McKie stuck it out.

And while his action was very limited his first three years in Columbia, he’s seen a lot more playing time in 2016-17 with Thornwell’s absence and being one of the three seniors on the team. Even when Thornwell returned, McKie has been a solid bench player on the second unit.

Though he’d score a career high 13 points against Auburn, perhaps his most important contributions this season came against Mississippi State on the road. With the game slipping away from the Gamecocks in the final ten minutes, McKie hit a key layup to give South Carolina the lead — a lead in which they would not lose again.

Perhaps even bigger in that game was the three-pointer McKie hit with four seconds to go in the first half to tie the game at 36. His eight points off the bench would be crucial in a 77-71 win during a rough stretch of the Gamecocks season.

When compared to the careers of his running mates Thornwell and Notice, McKie’s career pales in comparison. And in 25 years fans probably won’t bring up McKie’s name when talking about the Frank Martin teams. However, McKie’s career is something we can all learn from.

The easy thing for a guy who’s name recognition is more associated with his father’s greatness than his own would have been to transfer. Poppa BJ is a coach over at Charleston Southern, and it wouldn’t have been hard for Justin to make a call to Dad to find a spot for him with the Buccaneers.

However, even after injuries and little-to-no playing time in his first three seasons, McKie had stuck it out and could be a part of the first tournament team since 2004 — which by the way would finally be something he could share with his father as a Gamecock.

McKie’s perseverance is something we can all admire on a human level. Knowing what looms over him every time he steps on the court combined with the bench time he’d had to swallow is not easy to deal with — but McKie pushed on.

So here’s a health to Justin McKie — who may just have another big three-pointer left in him as tournament times looms closer.