On the same night his alma mater began life without him, Sindarius Thornwell made the first start of his NBA career.
It was Nov. 10 and while South Carolina was opening the 2017-18 season at Wofford, the Los Angeles Clippers were in Oklahoma City to face the Thunder. Thornwell had Paul George and Russell Westbrook to deal with. His analyzing of the Gamecocks had to wait.
“I keep up with the box scores just because it’s hard to catch a game,” Thornwell said Saturday in Charlotte. “Recently we’re all playing at the same time.”
Thornwell is 16 games into his rookie season with the Clippers. His starting streak ended at five Monday evening when Patrick Beverley returned to the lineup against the Knicks. USC, the team Thornwell helped guide to the Final Four, is 4-1 and will next face Florida International on Nov. 27 in Miami.
Never miss a local story.
These Gamecocks – with seven roster additions since Thornwell left – are different than last year’s, but the connection to the program remains strong.
“They’re my guys,” Thornwell said. “They’re my little brothers, so I want the best for them. I want to see them win.
“So I talk to them and preach to them that you got to forget about last year. You got to forget about the Final Four and all that stuff. It’s a new year, it’s on y’all now. That was my run, now it’s on y’all. Create your own history. So just forget that and go do your own thing.”
Thornwell, a 6-foot-5, 215-pound guard, calls Chris Silva, a 6-9, 223-pound forward, his “son.”
A quick box score review from the Wofford game revealed Silva had three fouls before the 15-minute mark of the second half. That doesn’t make Dad happy.
“When Chris is fouling, I call him,” Thornwell said. “I tell him, ‘Quit (freaking) fouling. You the head of the team now. You’ve been through it three years. You can’t expect to win if you’re out of the game.’
“I had to call him and cuss him out.”
Thornwell doesn’t let exhibition games slide either. On Oct. 30 against Erskine, junior point guard Hassani Gravett made just two of eight 3-point attempts.
“I had to get on Hassani a little bit for taking all them 3s,” Thornwell said. “I told him to drive the ball. ‘Drive the ball, son. You’re one of the most athletic players on the team, drive the ball!’”
Afterward, Thornwell took to Twitter to congratulate his former coach.