For such a tiny town at the South Carolina-North Carolina border, Lancaster, SC has its share of accomplished natives.
A Poet-Laureate, NASA astronaut, lawmaker, Olympic Gold Medalist and a handful of professional athletes have at one point called Lancaster home. Thursday evening they’ll presumably add one more star to their little hall of fame when Sindarius Thornwell is taken off the board in the 2017 NBA Draft.
The question is no longer if Thornwell gets drafted but where he’ll fall between the two rounds. His senior year was undoubtedly great and that’s even before he spurred a No. 7 seeded South Carolina to their first Final Four in program history. But NBA Draft heads are still varied across the board as to where he could land, so we’ll help parse some of the confusion for you here:
Defense, defense, defense. If Thornwell wants to have a long NBA career, his ability to defend multiple positions is what will keep him on the floor. At the collegiate level Thornwell could defend four positions on the floor and in the tournament was tasked with guarding each team’s best scorer (ask Luke Kennard how that went).
He’s an immensely talented rebounder for his size and often uses that same brawn to drive into or through defenders to the basket. He’s a dually talented ball handler who has the ability to bring the ball up the court and run pick-and-roll sets.
Thornwell’s intangibles are off the charts. He’s a four year starter who has been the emotional engine for South Carolina since his first game against Longwood in 2013.
Thornwell has to keep improving his outside shot if he wants to be a viable option in the NBA. His percentages did make a sizable increase from his junior year to his senior year, but needs to extend his range to the corners rather than just the wings and top of the arc.
Explosiveness is widely regarded by the experts as his main deficiency. He doesn’t have an overwhelming first step that’s going to leave defenders in the dust and it can impair him at times when trying to create his own shot.
In college Thornwell played a lot of small-ball three and even four, which he consistently took advantage of when driving to the hoop on slower defenders. He won’t be able to do so in the NBA against much more defensively sound perimeter players.
Off The Court
Thornwell will be one of the latest alums from Oak Hill Academy to enter the ranks of the NBA — the same prep powerhouse which produced Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Rajon Rondo. Coming out of high school he was the highest ranked recruit to come to South Carolina in almost 20 years.
He recently had a scholarship made in his name at South Carolina, which is described as such: "Once fully endowed, the scholarship will be awarded annually to a men’s basketball student-athlete who exemplifies the competitive edge and effort that Thornwell put forth during his record-setting career at Carolina."
Depending on who you ask, Thornwell could get picked as high as late in the first round and fall as far as the second to last pick in the draft. Most of that fluctuation is hinged on who thinks Thornwell can develop a consistent three-point shot, because if he could he would project to be a Wesley Matthews or PJ Tucker type of three-and-D wing.
Even if he doesn’t reach his full potential in the NBA, it won’t change how South Carolina fans feel about him and his career. He’ll still be one of if not the most beloved player in program history and if South Carolina knows what they’re doing — number zero will be hanging in the rafters in a few short years.