Saying he was humbled but thrilled to be returning to the court, South Carolina leading scorer and rebounder Sindarius Thornwell apologized on Monday after he was reinstated following a six-game suspension.
“I just want to say I accept full responsibility for my actions. I would like to send an apology to our fans, (University president Harris) Pastides, (athletics director Ray) Tanner and most importantly, my coaches and my teammates,” Thornwell said. “I am humbled and excited to be back on the court battling with my brothers and excited about conference play.”
The reason for Thornwell’s suspension remains unclear, as Thornwell declined to provide details. But he and coach Frank Martin said that Wednesday’s SEC opener at Georgia was always the target date for his return, if Thornwell met certain requirements.
The State reported on Dec. 13 that Thornwell was expected to miss six games.
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Thornwell was allowed to practice and travel with the team during the suspension. It was that familiarity and staying in shape that makes Martin and Thornwell think he’ll be able to step right back into the starting lineup with no rust.
As for trusting Thornwell to be the leader he was in an 8-0 start that claimed a No. 16 national ranking, Martin sees no problems.
“Where Sin’s had to regain his voice is how he handled this moment with his new teammates. His mistake at this time of year impacted our team in a negative way,” Martin said. “We’d rather it not happen, we tend to forget we’re dealing with young people and sometimes they make mistakes, just like us old people that got life figured out, screw up every single day.”
The Gamecocks have lost three of their last five, Thornwell’s scoring sorely missed as P.J. Dozier exploded into a 20-point player but nobody coming with him. USC’s defense also suffered, Thornwell’s ability to shut down the opponent’s top perimeter player and his rebounding ability affecting the Gamecocks’ late-game collapses against Seton Hall and Clemson.
USC received no votes in the Top 25 this week after being No. 16 on Dec. 12, despite losing to two RPI Top-30 teams and on the road to Memphis (No. 123). Yet the season was always going to come down to how the Gamecocks performed in the SEC, and Thornwell is back for all of the 18-game slate.
Thornwell was contrite on Monday. “Through this whole process, the last six games, I wasn’t leading on the court but I still led on the sidelines during the games,” he said. “I still tried to let my voice be heard and try to help the younger guys out the best I could. I still think I’m viewed as a leader on the team.”
“He’s had to make sure that how he handles all this is OK with those new guys,” he said. “I can’t make people trust him. I trust him. That’s why he’s still here. He had to regain the trust of the new guys. And I think he’s done that.”
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