In a gym full of popular DJs, radio show hosts and event promoters, it was the 6-foot-5 NBA player at the center of attention. His dunks were thrown down with the most authority, his pull-up 30-footers always felt like they had a chance of going in and his apparel drew the most scrutiny.
“For those who are listening to this,” King Caddy said into a microphone, “he had on Larry Bird shorts. Yes, from the Boston Celtics. Robert Parish shorts.”
Caddy is an on-air personality for HOT 103.9, Columbia’s hip-hop and R&B station. On Sunday afternoon at Gray Collegiate Academy, Caddy was an emcee of sorts for game action at “Roc N Joc,” a charity basketball event where the fashion could be louder than the music blared between whistles.
Sindarius Thornwell wore a blue T-shirt like the rest of his teammates, but his snug bottoms – white with black pinstripes – stopped well before the knee. Let a young Cali resident explain.
“It’s the swag,” said the 23-year-old Los Angeles Clipper. “The old heads don’t know nothing about it. They’re still big and baggy. It’s about small and fit now.”
It was around 5:30 p.m. when Thornwell stepped outside the gym. He was still dripping in sweat, a sign his signature motor doesn’t slow down for a light exhibition contest in front of some old friends – but also a sign he was home.
The South Carolina heat always welcomes back one of its own.
“Sin flew in just for this game at 8 o’clock in the morning,” said Eric “Flee” Emedoh. “He’s back on a flight to L.A. first thing in the morning.
“He gave me his word that he’ll be here for the kids.”
Emedoh is the two-year organizer of “Roc N Joc,” an event promoted by Flee Entertainment and Mogul Mindset that benefits youth diabetes. He’s known Thornwell since he was a freshman at South Carolina.
A Lancaster native, Thornwell only dresses like a West Coaster now. An NBA season hasn’t changed him.
“It’s really not different because I’m always around,” Thornwell said. “I’m always in the community and hanging out. They’re used to seeing me. I’m not one of those guys who’s trying to stay away, stay distant. I’m always active and involved.”
Thornwell’s offseason training has stretched both ends of the country. He’s been in L.A., sure, but he’s made frequent visits back to SC. Gray Collegiate was his location Sunday. Earlier this summer, it was the Carolina Coliseum.
“I was around (Frank Martin) when I first came home,” Thornwell said. “I was around him for a good bit. Spent a lot of time. I was working out.”
Thornwell averaged 3.9 points over 73 games as a Clippers rookie. During warm-up sessions Sunday, he spent most of his time beyond the perimeter.
“I’m trying to get my 3-pointer consistent,” he said.
As he took shot after shot from around the volleyball line, he had plenty of volunteers to rebound.
“The man could have been anywhere in the world today, but he decided to come back and spend time with the people who supported him through his college career,” Caddy said.
“A lot of kids that probably can’t afford to go to his home games can see him in action today. So it’s like killing two birds with one stone. You get to come out here, see a professional ball player and you don’t have to pay ball-player prices to come see the game.
“It was definitely wonderful thing for him to be here today.”
When Thornwell came off the bench and entered his first game, Caddy jokingly just referred to him by his jersey number. “Hey, No. 4, I’ve seen you on TV.”
“It’s cool,” Thornwell said. “I mostly come back just to be back with my family – my brothers, cousins – just be back with them. I’m not really with them all year, so just to be back with them and be back with the community with the kids, I’m all about doing stuff for the kids and hanging out with the kids and stuff like that.
“It’s always good to be able to do that.”
Larry Bird shorts be damned.
“Hey,” Caddy said, “he might be setting a trend today. I’m going to go home right now and roll my shorts up so we can have the same look.”