Graham Lawson was a hero of sorts Monday for his South Carolina baseball teammates.
The sophomore pitcher showed off his fashion sense ahead of the annual Gamecock Gala. That meant bow-tie assistance for junior Alex Destino and several of their teammates.
“Thank God for Graham Lawson,” Destino said. “I think he’s just got it a little more figured out than we do. He literally held his hand up and was like, ‘If anybody needs help with their tie or bow tie, come here.’ ”
South Carolina’s 19 athletics programs were celebrated Monday night during the Gamecock Gala held at Colonial Life Arena. Student-athletes traded their athletic duds for the night, dressing up to recognize the academic, athletic and community service accomplishments of the past year.
The men boasted neckties, bow ties or no ties, with an occasional hat or set of suspenders. Dresses and high heels were staples for the women.
Baseball’s T.J. Hopkins went with an all blue look. Football’s Korey Banks showed off his Air Jordan Olympic 7 shoes. Basketball’s Sindarius Thornwell wore pink, green and blue socks that were “amazing,” USC President Harris Pastides declared.
Beach volleyball’s Katie Zimmerman and women’s soccer’s Savannah McCaskill opted for black rompers instead of dresses.
McCaskill, now a senior, recalled being a little nervous at her first Gamecock Gala. That wasn’t the case Monday with the Gamecocks coming off an Elite Eight appearance.
“It’s a comforting environment,” McCaskill said. “It’s not something you have to perform at.”
South Carolina’s basketball programs were in the spotlight for their recent runs in the NCAA Tournament. Dawn Staley’s Gamecocks were recognized on stage with their national championship trophy. An ice sculpture replica of the trophy was also on display.
Thornwell and A’ja Wilson each earned Athlete of the Year honors.
“There’s a lot to celebrate,” Thornwell said.
The Gamecocks’ volleyball team was recognized for its 1,609 community outreach hours, breaking a USC record they set a year earlier. Women’s soccer All-American Chelsea Drennan earned the prestigious President’s Award.
Kicker Elliott Fry was presented by coach Will Muschamp with the Gamecock Inspiration Award, recognizing Fry overcoming the adversity of diabetes.
Quarterback Jake Bentley, who was named USC’s New Student-Athlete of the Year, spent the last few days thinking of what he would wear to his first Gamecock Gala. He admitted that college has turned him into a bow-tie guy.
“It’s great to have everyone together,” Bentley said. “We always see each other playing our sports, but it’s cool to see everybody dressed up and looking nice. Just appreciate how hard everybody works: That’s what tonight is about.”
2017 Gamecock Gala award-winners
SEC H. Boyd McWhorter Award: Chelsea Drennan (women’s soccer), Jonathan Boland (swimming and diving)
SEC Brad Davis Community Service Award: Maya Evans (track and field), Ive Burnett (men’s soccer)
New Student-Athletes of the Year: Tyasha Harris (women’s basketball), Mikayla Krzeczowski (women’s soccer), Jake Bentley (football)
Scholar-Athletes of the Year: Bailey Mierzejewski (equestrian), Jonathan Boland (swimming and diving)
Community Outreach Team of the Year: Indoor Volleyball
Athletes of the Year: A’ja Wilson (women’s basketball), Sindarius Thornwell (men’s basketball)
Gamecock Inspiration Award: Elliott Fry (football)
President’s Award: Chelsea Drennan (women’s soccer)
Baseball (2016 season): Gene Cone
Women’s Basketball: A’ja Wilson
Men’s Basketball: Sindarius Thornwell
Beach Volleyball: co-MVPs, Adrianna Culbert and Katie Zimmerman
Cheerleading: Caroline Rietkovich
Carolina Girls Dance Team: Addison Lewis
Cross Country: Mary Reiser
Equestrian: Bailey Mierzejewski
Football: Co-MVPs; Jake Bentley, Deebo Samuel
Women’s Golf: Katelyn Dambaugh
Men’s Golf: Keenan Huskey
Women’s Soccer: Chelsea Drennan
Men’s Soccer: Julian Veen Uldal
Softball (2016 season): Kaylea Snaer
Women’s Swimming and Diving: Emma Barksdale
Men’s Swimming and Diving: Akram Mahmoud
Women’s Tennis: Brigit Folland
Men’s Tennis: Harrison O’Keefe
Women’s Outdoor Track and Field (2016 season): Natasha Dicks
Women’s Indoor Track and Field: Rougui Sow
Men’s Outdoor Track and Field (2016 season): Dondre Echols
Men’s Indoor Track and Field: Josh Awotunde
Volleyball: Mikayla Shields