The final regular-season day of the S.C. Pro Am was held on Sunday.
First, the playoff schedule:
All games at Heathwood Hall * Open to the public
Team 3 (Brian Steele) vs. Team 8 (Reggie Theus Jr./Marcus Stroman), 5:30 p.m.
Team 1 (Desmond Ringer) vs. Team 6, 6:45 p.m.
Team 4 (Austin Constable) vs. Team 7 (Brenton Williams/Demetrius Henry), 8 p.m.
Team 5 (Seventh Woods/Duane Notice) vs. Team 9 (Sindarius Thornwell/Ty Johnson), 9:15 p.m.
Team 3/8 winner vs. Team 1/6 winner, 5:30 p.m.
Team 4/7 winner vs. Team 5/9 winner, 6:45 p.m.
Winner vs. Team 10 (Jaylen Shaw/P.J. Dozier), 3 p.m.
Winner vs. Team 2 (Michael Carrera/Justin McKie), 4:15 p.m.
Championship, 3 p.m.
Seventh Woods: 10-of-12 (1-of-3 3), 21 pts, 2 reb, 1 ast
Again, it’s easy to see what all the hype is about. He plays so far above his age (14) that it’s ridiculous. He can be a pass-first point guard, or he can play the two – on Sunday, he mostly did the latter, and was the finisher on several passes, including two alley-oop dunks. Very polished offensively, knows he can score any time in any way, but doesn’t feel that he has to be the sole source of offense. He worked to get his teammates involved, even at the two, but took over when he had to – like on a breakaway one-handed thunderous jam; a play where he was at the top of the key on a baseline inbound pass, then flashed past his man so fast the guy never looked up and received the pass for an uncontested bunny; and a possession where he handled it all the way, casually stopping on the right wing to bottom a 3-pointer. Great speed, great shot selection, very astute player that doesn’t make mistakes typically seen in one so young. He’s fun to watch – and the next three years stand to bring a recruiting mania to the state that will mimic Jadeveon Clowney’s.
And just to show he’s human, I suppose, Woods airballed a 3-pointer. Of course, later on, he pinned a shot on the glass, where his head cleared the rim.
Brenton Williams: 5-of-14 (4-of-10 3), 16 pts, 4 reb, 6 ast
Demetrius Henry: 3-of-7 (1-of-3 3), 7 pts, 3 reb, 1 ast
Sindarius Thornwell: 4-of-11 (1-of-3 3, 9-of-10 FT), 18 pts, 10 reb, 6 ast
Williams continues to show just how good he can be – it always seems that when one bucket drops, four more immediately follow. He stuck mostly to the 3-pointers on Sunday, since he was going against a tall team, but did flash to the rim a couple of times. I’ve said before that Williams is capable of running the point, because he can ably handle the ball, but he is so fast that he sometimes runs himself off the dribble. Didn’t happen Sunday. He had six assists and even four rebounds. If there is a “probable” starting five at this point (and there really can’t be with so many newcomers), Williams is a prime candidate to at least be one of the probable starting two.
Henry was much more active on defense and hustling to the boards. It’s kind of off-putting, that a player so lanky goes for the rebounds on defense but is more comfortable with an outside shot on offense, but that’s his game. One could tell he was trying to get more comfortable with playing inside on offense, and Williams was trying to get him the ball. He stroked one 3. He’ll get used to the system – he wasn’t recruited from Miami just because Frank Martin liked his hometown.
Thornwell started slowly, being goaded into shooting far from his range at first and airballing two shots, but then took over. Even at the two, he corralled 10 rebounds and managed six assists, while scoring 18 points. He didn’t have a great day from the field, but he was getting to the free-throw line and knocking down shots (9-of-10). Difficult to see where he won’t be some kind of offensive presence every night during the season, if he can keep that up – I’m sure you all recall that USC had nobody that could do that last year. He can make it from 3, he can drive and hit the up-and-unders, he can get to the line. Was spending a bit too much time talking to the refs, but perhaps that’s because he knew he could get away with it, since this is an exhibition setting.
Michael Carrera: 9-of-24 (2-of-11 3), 28 pts, 14 reb
The kid’s game is energy, and he definitely supplied that, but Carrera had a rough day from the field. He has been trying to develop his outside shot, and has been doing pretty well, but Sunday was a step back. Still, Carrera made up for it by constantly playing in the middle, jumping for every loose ball and to try to deny every inside shot, and still grabbing rebounds. After a rough start from the line (he’s been a great free-throw shooter thus far), he calmed down to sink four of his final six tries.
He also had that moment, like he usually does, that shows just how energetic and what a vital presence he is. He stole a ball just south of mid-court, took one crossover step with one dribble, took off from the free-throw line and one-hand dunked. He’ll start. He has too much passion and love for the game and for the team not to.
Desmond Ringer: 3-of-4, 6 pts, 5 reb, 1 ast
I’ve heard it for years – “Why can’t USC ever get that classic big man?” The question has its merits, as it seems that every USC tall guy that came in was either just a shot-blocker, or an outside shooter, or just not very good. One of the most consistent big men over the past decade remains Murphy Holloway, and he never played a game for the Gamecocks. Ringer at least has the size to be that player, but has a way to go. Something that cost him was a sprained ankle during his first game in the Pro Am, and that kept him out for the majority of the series. He’s just now getting all the way back.
He looks like a defensive end patrolling the paint, and while he wasn’t showing much offensively on Sunday, he was also playing on a team led by Devan Downey. He finished when he got the ball, and he was always around the lane for rebounds. He’s kind of the “unknown” guy of the class, but he was recruited and signed well before the late additions like Henry, Jaylen Shaw and Duane Notice. The staff sees a lot in him, and if he can get a little bit quicker and become a go-to option on offense, he’ll develop into a solid player. Renaldo Balkman-esque? Probably not, but then again, remember that Balkman always had the skills, but never always showed them. He’d follow a 28-point double-double with six games of nothing. If Ringer can supply eight points and five rebounds a night, especially as a freshman, that should be good.
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