USC Recruiting

How Sindarius Thornwell is inspiring one South Carolina recruit this AAU season

‘It’s not all about me.’ USC target Dillon Jones talks game, recruitment

Dillon Jones, a 2020 South Carolina basketball recruiting target, provides an update on April 13, 2019.
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Dillon Jones, a 2020 South Carolina basketball recruiting target, provides an update on April 13, 2019.

As a kid coming up through the basketball ranks in South Carolina, Dillon Jones is, naturally, a Sindarius Thornwell follower.

Thornwell, a second-year guard for the Los Angeles Clippers, is a Lancaster product. From that city of 9,000 in the northern part of the state, Thornwell went to Oak Hill Academy in Virginia and then came home for an outstanding career with the Gamecocks, ending with an SEC Player of the Year award and a Final Four berth.

Jones is a 6-foot-6 guard/forward who just helped Columbia’s Keenan High School to a state championship. The rising senior — who holds a scholarship offer from USC — was scrolling through Instagram recently when he came across Thornwell’s account. The Clipper was using the “Ask me a question” feature on his story and responding to his followers accordingly.

“And a kid asked him about getting recognition,” Jones said. “And (Thornwell) came back on the Instagram and was like, ‘You gotta take a name to get a name.’”

Jones, during an AAU game last Saturday at the Upward Star Center in Spartanburg, faced Josh Hall, a four-star prospect from North Carolina fresh off a Kansas offer. With Thornwell’s post in mind, Jones finished with 18 points, six rebounds and three assists as his Upward Stars edged Hall and Team Loaded NC, 79-76.

Hall, a 6-9, 190-pounder, had 14 points, three rebounds and an assist.

“Me going up against a guy like that,” Jones said, “I know if I want to have a name or just get out there or be a good player, I had to take a name. He was just one name I took. .... To get a name, you gotta take a name. That’s kind of like my motto this summer.”

Jones’ Upward team is loaded with some of the best talent in SC, led by P.J. Hall and Myles Tate, a Dorman pair ranked by 247Sports among the top 150 prospects in the country for the 2020 class. Jones’ profile is a bit lower, sparking the fight he showed over the weekend.

“I took it personal,” Jones said of Josh Hall. “He doesn’t know who I am, but I know who he is.”

Who is Jones?

Let P.J. Hall and Tate tell you.

Hall: “Dillon can pass so well for his size. He sees the entire floor. His court vision is incredible for his age and his ball IQ is incredible.”

Tate: “He can do anything on the court that you want him to. He can guard every position, he can play any position on offense. So he’s just versatile. He just helps out the team a lot.”

Jones’ offer list includes Appalachian State, Charlotte, College of Charleston and USC. The Gamecocks like what Hall and Tate have been seeing on the AAU circuit for a few years.

“They like my potential,” said Jones, who talks mostly to USC assistant Chuck Martin. “I’m 6-6 and I can pass the ball. That might sound familiar. You think of P.J. Dozier maybe. So I think that’s kind of what they see in me. They tell me that they like how I pass the ball and I’m so versatile. You can’t teach that, you can’t teach versatility.”

A final college decision, Jones said, could come before his senior season begins at Keenan.

“Appalachian State is my latest offer,” Jones said. “I’ve been talking to a lot of schools recently like Temple, Florida Gulf Coast, just to name a few. But it’s picking up I think just because I’m starting to shoot the ball a little more. I think there were a lot of question marks about that. And I think by displaying that, my recruitment’s about to see a big jump.

“I just gotta perform though. I gotta stay true to who I am.”

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.