USC Men's Basketball

A G League star, PJ Dozier relishing ‘great teammate’ role as Celtics enter NBA playoffs

The top moments from PJ Dozier’s Gamecock career

Watch the highlights of former Gamecock PJ Dozier's basketball career, including the Final Four in 2017.
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Watch the highlights of former Gamecock PJ Dozier's basketball career, including the Final Four in 2017.

With their playoff seed — No. 4 in the Eastern Conference — and opponent — Indiana Pacers — already locked up, the Boston Celtics could afford to look different Tuesday night against the Washington Wizards.

Familiar faces like Kyrie Irving, Al Horford and Gordon Hayward stayed home, allowing typical reserves to be a part of Coach Brad Stevens’ rotation.

South Carolina’s PJ Dozier logged a career-high 37 minutes, scored 12 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and recorded five assists as the Celtics rallied to beat the Wizards, 116-110, in the nation’s capital. The former Gamecock provided the highlight of the night with a thunderous dunk late in the second quarter.

It’s perhaps this kind of ability that caused Boston to make Dozier a full member of its roster last month. An All-G League player with the Maine Red Claws, Dozier has now appeared in six games for the Celtics. The playoffs begin Saturday.

(Sindarius Thornwell, Dozier’s former USC teammate, is also in the playoffs with the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers will be the 8-seed in the Western Conference.)

“It’s all about being a great teammate,” Dozier told The State in February. “That’s what the coaches and GMs look for. All these guys are professional basketball players and all of them have potential to be great and all of them have different abilities and niches, I should say, that teams look for.

“But every team can use a great teammate and that’s first and foremost. So that’s what I try to hang my hat on no matter where I am.”

Dozier, a Columbia native and Spring Valley alumnus, is in his second year of pro ball. Undrafted out of USC in 2017, the 6-foot-6 guard eventually landed in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s organization. He averaged 13 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists a game for the G League’s Oklahoma City Blue last season. Signed to a two-way contract with Boston in August, Dozier averaged 21.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 6.7 assists for the Red Claws.

“I think the best teacher is experience,” Dozier said. “Just having that one year under my belt and kind of knowing how things work and kind of getting implemented into the play style and how fast the play style is. And just kind of being comfortable, understanding where I can get my shots and what the team needs from me to be successful.”

Despite Boston’s star power with Irving and Hayward, Dozier said the Celtic he most looks up to is Semi Ojeleye, a second-year player from SMU who logs under 11 minutes a game.

“He’s one of the guys that doesn’t play much but when he gets his number called, he’s always ready,” Dozier said. “He’s always prepared. He’s always a great teammate whenever he’s not playing. And he plays valuable minutes for them whenever they need him to. So that’s a guy who always has the mindset of if he stays ready, he doesn’t have to get ready.”

Dozier came back to USC in February and sat courtside for the Gamecocks’ win over Texas A&M. It there where he was reunited with Frank Martin, his fiery former coach whose style differs from the stoic Stevens.

“Oh man, they’re like night and day,” Dozier said. “But they’re both great coaches, man. And they coach so much differently, but ultimately they both have the same goals for their team, goals for their individual players and they know what they can get from their players. They have different ways to get through to the players and the coaches, but ultimately they’re great at their jobs.

“I feel like they’re two of the best I’ve ever been around.”

Andrew Ramspacher has been covering college athletics since 2010, serving as The State’s USC men’s basketball beat writer since October 2017. His work has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors, Virginia Press Association and West Virginia Press Association. At a program-listed 5-foot-10, he’s always been destined to write about the game. Not play it.