Everything changes Thursday.
P.J. Dozier and Sindarius Thornwell have always been basketball players, but Thursday they stand to leap to that exalted status they’ve always wanted. Lots play basketball, but only a few play in the NBA; South Carolina’s two budding pros are on that threshold.
Thursday’s NBA Draft will be a culmination of years of hard work, of committing to a craft and sticking with it through hard times. Dozier and Thornwell are ready, but they also know that if their names are called and they suit up in October, nothing will be the same.
Money. Fame. An 82-game schedule complete with everyday practices and workouts, filled with flights across the country. Each Palmetto State native won’t be able to head home for a quick sojourn of family time and will have to rely on phone calls and tablets to see their loved ones.
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Hard? Of course. But necessary for the chance to play on the biggest stage.
“That’s who I’m doing this for,” Dozier said of his family at his Charlotte workout a week ago. “They’ve always been my biggest supporters. I’m blessed to be doing this for them, for them to have my backs at all times, and they make this process so much easier.”
Dozier was raised in a basketball household, dad Perry and uncle Terry taking their turns at USC and Terry drinking a cup of coffee in the NBA. P.J. turned down a lot of established programs to help revitalize the Gamecocks, and it paid off with a Final Four berth where everyone knew his name.
That notoriety and his unusual package – 6-foot-7, 6-11 wingspan, ability to handle the ball, score and defend at the pro level, despite his youth – have made Dozier an intriguing option. His numerous workouts shopped his wares to nearly half the NBA and he’s hoping one of them saw enough to know they have to have him.
Thornwell’s been a celebrity since he committed to USC, like Dozier turning down several other big-time programs – and more that could have called during his days at prep powerhouse Oak Hill – to stay home. His star glowed in March when he led the NCAA tournament in scoring and was the climax of the best story in the event.
“I go from nobody knowing who I am to everybody knowing who I am,” Thornwell said at his Indiana workout. “It’s not like the NCAA tournament, I picked up my play. I was playing like that all season. I was just on a stage where all eyes were on me and all eyes were on my teammates, and I took advantage of my opportunity.”
Thornwell was out front in every news conference, had his picture in Sports Illustrated and had announcers buzzing over this kid from nowhere leading a team from nowhere to the Final Four. That production earned him a spot at the NBA Draft Combine, and like Dozier he parlayed that into several workouts.
Thornwell’s ability and willingness to do anything on the basketball court also makes him a desired commodity. Each of the two Gamecocks are on and off the constantly updated mock drafts as the big day draws near, but each knows they gave it the best they had in the time they had to do it.
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Projections for USC players
South Carolina basketball stars P.J. Dozier and Sindarius Thornwell should hear their names called Thursday in the NBA Draft’s second round. Some projections:
Dozier: No. 50 to the Philadelphia 76ers
Thornwell: No. 58 to the New York Knicks
Thornwell: No. 49 to the Denver Nuggets
Dozier: No. 53 to the Boston Celtics
Dozier: No. 36 to the Philadelphia 76ers
Thornwell: No. 42 to the Utah Jazz
2017 NBA Draft
When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.
TV: ESPN, NBA
Total picks: 60 (30 in each round)