Sindarius Thornwell will get one final shot to get South Carolina in position for a firm NCAA bid this week at the SEC Tournament in Nashville. The fact that they’re even in that discussion is thanks in no small part to his performance this year, and the league has taken notice.
Thornwell was named the SEC Player of the Year today, the first Gamecocks player to receive the honor since the school joined the conference in 1991 - and the first South Carolina player to be named the best in its conference since John Roche won back-to-back ACC honors in 1969 and 1970. Thornwell did it on the strength of a campaign that saw him average 21.1 points (tied with Kentucky’s Malik Monk for the league’s scoring title) and 7.3 rebounds an outing. His best performance of all may have come in a four-overtime loss against Alabama where he exploded for a career-high 44 points and 21 rebounds.
Thornwell was the best player on the court just about every time out - and it was going to be hard for a player like Monk to overtake him for the conference’s highest individual honor.
So proud of him. He is becoming an unbelievable man. Thx brother https://t.co/gS5EQwVSIU— Frank Martin (@FrankMartin_SC) March 7, 2017
While the senior will enjoy the award for now, the most important thing to him - and his team - is getting into the NCAA Tournament. They’ll need to navigate the SEC Tournament waters first and will need to wait to see if their resume passes the test. Seeing Thornwell go out with a bang in leading his team to the Big Dance for the first time since 2004 will truly cement his legacy as one of the program’s elite players.
As far as other league awards, Florida’s Mike White was named the SEC coach of the year, while the Gators’ Canyon Barry and Kentucky’s Monk took home sixth man and freshman of the year awards, respectively. Texas A&M’s Robert Williams was judged to be the league’s top defensive player, while Vandy’s Luke Kornet was honored for his work in the classroom as he took scholar-athlete of the year.