Hours after being cleared to play by the NCAA, University of South Carolina guard Tyrone Johnson led his new team to an 82-44 rout over Longwood University.
In the season opener for second-year head coach Frank Martin, the 6-foot-3, 194-pound transfer from Villanova scored 18 points to lead all scorers.
True freshman Sindarius Thornwell – a 6-foot-5, 206-pound Lancaster, S.C. native – chipped in 14 points for the Gamecocks (1-0, 0-0 SEC) in his debut while Brenton Williams – one of only two seniors on Martin’s squad – added 14 points of his own.
Gamecock fans (the announced crowd was 8,356, but take that number with an ocean of salt) also witnessed the debut of a pair of highly touted newcomers – Justin McKie and Reggie Theus, Jr.
McKie’s dad, B.J. McKie, is USC’s all-time career scoring leader. Theus’ dad was a two-time NBA All-Star.
Michael Carerra (above) scored twelve points and added nine rebounds for the Gamecocks – who play on the road against No. 25 Baylor on Tuesday and on the road against arch-rival Clemson next Saturday.
South Carolina posted a dismal 14-18 mark in Martin’s first season as head coach, including a 4-14 record in Southeastern Conference play. The previous year the team went 10-21 in former head coach Darrin Horn’s final season in Columbia, S.C.
Big things are expected from Martin, who posted a 117-54 mark in five seasons as Kansas State’s head coach. His run with the Wildcats included four NCAA tournament nods – including an Elite Eight appearance in 2009.
South Carolina hasn’t appeared in the NCAA tournament since 2004 – and hasn’t won a game in the “Big Dance” since 1974.