The playoffs of the S.C. Pro Am began on Wednesday.
All games at Heathwood Hall * Open to the public
Chick-Fil-A (Marcus Stroman/Reggie Theus Jr.) vs. First Citizens Bank, 5:30 p.m.
Honda of Columbia (Brenton Williams) vs. General Information Services (Sindarius Thornwell/Ty Johnson), 6:45 p.m.
Chick-Fil-A/First Citizens Bank winner vs. Palmetto Promotions (Jaylen Shaw), 3 p.m.
Honda of Columbia/General Information Services winner vs. USC Sports Medicine (Michael Carrera), 4:15 p.m.
Championship, 3 p.m.
Marcus Stroman: 9-of-16 (1-of-5 3), 19 pts, 9 reb, 13 ast, 4 stl
It had to be asked, so it was asked right away. Was there anything to worry about on USC’s end about Stroman’s comments earlier this week, that he may or may not be still committed to the Gamecocks?
“I’m still a Gamecock,” the rising Keenan High School senior (and USC’s only commit for the next class) said. “I just want to take visits, that’s it.” Stroman then answered in the affirmative when asked if he was still officially committed.
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Nothing wrong with wanting to take more visits. Stroman committed so early (a year ago) that it’s natural to want to get some of the same attention that some of his buddies are getting. There is no worry from USC’s end and Stroman was completely at ease talking about it on Wednesday.
His game was very impressive. He told me earlier this summer that he wanted to cement his reputation as a pass-first point guard, a ball-handler that could score, as opposed to having to score, and he did that on Wednesday. He was only a rebound short of a triple-double; told that afterward, he smiled and shrugged. He was happy with the double-double.
Stroman always seems to make the right decision. He can be fancy, but doesn’t show off; he can score in bunches, but he often does only as a last resort. That may be something that he has to work on if he comes to USC and the Gamecocks don’t have proven scorers, but it’s difficult to see that since eight newcomers will all play this year and someone has to rise to the top.
He has a year left of high school to work on his game and should be fun to watch. Very confident in his ability to direct and very strong to the hoop if he needs to be.
Desmond Ringer: 2-of-7, 6 pts, 8 reb, 1 stl, 1 blk
Ringer is the physical presence that USC has seemingly always desired, but he’s still getting in shape and getting used to playing an entire full-court game. A lot of that is from missing a few weeks due to a sprained ankle suffered in the first week of the Pro Am. He’ll get ready – strength coach Scott Greenawalt isn’t known for a lax disposition when it comes to getting his kids in shape.
Ringer needs to get used to not being the biggest kid on the block, since the monsters of the SEC will all have pounds and inches on him, and learn to be aggressive when he gets the ball in the lane. He was a bit hesitant on Wednesday, but on defense, he muscled his way to eight rebounds. He certainly looks the part of being able to take a pounding, and considering that two other “size” players – Laimonas Chatkevicius and Mindaugas Kacinas – are the only two players that haven’t been around all summer (they played for the Lithuanian national team), Ringer may have a heads-up on them once they return. That will all be determined once school starts and it’s all drills and pickup games until regular practice begins.
Brenton Williams: 9-of-17 (4-of-12 3), 28 pts, 5 reb, 1 ast
Frank Martin has challenged Williams to be the team leader this year, since he’s one of two seniors and the only one who will be around all year. If he plays like he did on Wednesday, the Gamecocks will have no problem in the leadership department.
Williams took over with his team trailing 68-60 and ignited a 25-11 run for the win, delivering a dagger of a 3-pointer to cement the lead and grabbing a key rebound soon after. He also sank 6-of-6 free throws down the stretch to put it away.
Williams is unafraid to let fly from way past the 3-point range and has gained a lot of body control when he’s in mid-air, able to twist and float a soft shot over the trees in the lane when it looks like he’s heading for a blocked shot or turnover. He’s going to be fun to watch this year.
Note: Freshman Demetrius Henry sprained his ankle in a recent workout and did not play on Wednesday.
Seventh Woods: 6-of-13 (2-of-5 3), 17 pts, 4 reb, 2 ast, 1 stl
Sindarius Thornwell: 8-of-16 (3-of-8 3), 23 pts, 9 reb, 3 ast, 2 blk
Ty Johnson: 2-of-8 (0-of-1 3), 8 pts, 4 reb, 2 ast
In the most high-profile matchup of the evening, the present beat the (potential) future.
Thornwell, like he has throughout the summer, played his tail off, throwing down some nasty dunks but really just playing a complete game. He was all over the court, directing traffic when he had to, flying in for rebounds and willing to take every shot on the floor.
He has been known this summer to complain to a referee or two, but didn’t do that on Wednesday. He was in control the whole time, challenging his men without being arrogant and shooting over them, all the while keeping an eye on the ultra-talented Woods.
Woods’ teammates were squeamish to pass him the ball, since it would have made it a one-man gang kind of game, and the sophomore was sticking on the perimeter a lot. He didn’t have a lot of success, and also demanded the ball in the tight situations, but couldn’t do enough to put his team ahead. Thornwell and Company were just too versatile.
Johnson, playing on a team with another point guard, seemed content to accept that role instead of taking over. He didn’t have his usual spark and was reduced to a lot of spectator possessions, but did team up with Thornwell a few times. Those two have very good chemistry together and once Johnson is eligible in mid-December, it should be a fun duo to watch.
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