Frank Martin’s expected to lean on seniors Sindarius Thornwell and Duane Notice this season.
They’ve been around the South Carolina men’s basketball team four years, they’ve played the most, they know what to do on, and off, the court.
But there’s another guy who’s no less important. An injury-riddled three years have kept him from becoming a consistent player, but his voice carries the same weight as his classmates.
Justin McKie’s career hasn’t come close to the way he thought it would after signing with South Carolina following an unbeaten senior high school season and the state’s “Mr. Basketball” award at Irmo High.
“It hasn’t, not at all,” he said. “But like Frank told me, when me and him talked after last season, I have one more chapter. And it’s up to me to make that chapter a memorable one or not, and I plan on making it a memorable one.”
McKie’s minutes have been derailed by injuries, nothing too serious, but enough to keep him sidelined for chunks of practice and games. Concussions were followed by muscle pulls (a problem he hopes to alleviate with more stretching and better diet) and he started this preseason by spraining his ankle.
He’s fine for Sunday’s exhibition against Newberry and hopes a solid performance springboards him into a great senior season. He, Thornwell and Notice are the team’s leaders, and they hope to lead the Gamecocks to the NCAA Tournament, the breakthrough that narrowly eluded them last year.
“Between each other, we talk a lot. We talk about practice, we talk about what we can do to help different guys, help them on and off the court,” McKie said. “I think it’ll hit me on Sunday that it’ll be the last year I get to dress up in this uniform. It’s a sad time, but it’s an exciting time as well.”
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Newberry at USC
When: 4:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia
Tickets: Free admission, with the USC women playing at 1:30 p.m.
South Carolina’s probable starters: G P.J. Dozier 6-6 So. (6.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg); G Sindarius Thornwell 6-5 Sr. (13.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg); G Duane Notice 6-2 Sr. (10.8 ppg, 2.4 rpg); F Maik Kotsar 6-10 Fr.; F Chris Silva 6-9 So. (5.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg)*
Next game: USC opens its season by hosting Louisiana Tech at 6:30 p.m. on Friday
* 2015-16 statistics