South Carolina has the pieces on their roster to be a team that makes some noise in the SEC this season, but that is dependent on some of their most important players getting healthy.
Namely, junior Sindarius Thornwell and redshirt freshman TeMarcus Blanton, both of whom underwent surgery over the summer. Thornwell had a procedure done on his knees while Blanton underwent surgery on a dislocated hip, an injury that was similar to what Bo Jackson did that ended his career.
Blanton is ahead of schedule on his recovery, but both he and Thornwell are being held out of competition for now.
“[Blanton] was supposed to be doing the stuff he’s doing now in August, so he’s about two months ahead of schedule,” head coach Frank Martin told the Charleston Post and Courier. “As far as sprinting, running, cutting, jumping — he does everything in the weight room and conditioning and agilities when we’re on the court with the exception of competing. We’re not allowing him to get in live competition yet, neither him nor Sindarius. But they do everything else. We don’t need to overload them, either one. We don’t have a game next week.”
That same story also said that incoming freshman P.J. Dozier, a McDonald’s All-American, is working his way into shape. Keyword: working.
“He and the garbage can became best friends that first week [of practice],” Martin said. “Every time I turned around, his head was inside of it.”
South Carolina lands key in-state, four-star guard
South Carolina picked up a commitment on Wednesday afternoon from P.J. Dozier, a four-star guard from Columbia, South Carolina.
Dozier had also considered Louisville and Georgetown, among others. There were many that considered the Cardinals the favorites as recently as Tuesday evening.
“With the support of my family, we decided that I will be attending the University of South Carolina,” Dozier said at his announcement ceremony at his high school Wednesday afternoon.
This is a huge pickup for Frank Martin and the Gamecocks. Dozier, a 6-foot-6 point guard, is the No. 34 recruit in the Class of 2015 and the star of a very talented class in the state. A terrific passer, Dozier is one of the smoothest players in the class. He is still getting back some of the explosiveness he lost after undergoing surgery last year on an ACL that he tore back in middle school.
Dozier joins Chris Silva in South Carolina’s 2015 class. Silva is a three-star recruit on Rivals but is ranked in ESPN’s top 100. The Gamecocks are also in the mix for Tevin Mack, another South Carolina kid that will be announcing soon.
It’s the third straight year in which Martin has brought in a four-star recruit to a program that has had limited success nationally in recent years. Sindarius Thornwell and Marcus Strohman, another kid from Columbia, are already enrolled at the school.
Each Monday and Friday, College Basketball Talk’s Scott Phillips goes over some important news and notes in the world of college basketball recruiting. This week, a pair of standouts from South Carolina set announcement dates, and Skal Labissiere and Isaiah Briscoe to announce this week.
Perry Dozier sets an announcement
One of the best guards in the country — and best uncommitted players — is committing on the first day of the November signing period on Wednesday. Four-star guard Perry Dozier will decide between Georgetown, Louisville, Michigan, North Carolina and South Carolina, Rivals’ Eric Bossi confirmed..
The No. 34 player in the class, according to Rivals, hails from Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina and many view the Gamecocks as strong contenders along with Louisville for the 6-foot-6 guard who can run some point or play off the ball.
Dozier took official visits to all five programs, but Louisville was the last visit among his stops. South Carolina and head coach Frank Martin have made a hard push for Dozier to stay home and play alongside Tevin Mack. His commitment will be a major shakeup on signing day either way.
Tevin Mack will also decide this week
Speaking of Mack, the four-star guard and No. 77 prospect in the 2015 class will decide on Tuesday as he chooses between Clemson, Georgia, South Carolina, UConn and VCU.
The 6-foot-6 scoring wing is also from Columbia, South Carolina, but attends Dreher High School. Mack, like Dozier, took all five official visits during the recruiting process and took the last visit to South Carolina. According to Rivals‘ Eric Bossi, Mack also took a visit to a South Carolina practice last week, as well, so the Gamecocks have some momentum here.
Mack isn’t a major difference-maker like Dozier could be almost immediately, but he’s still a really coveted piece who could be a valuable role player early on. Mack’s potential decision this week will be important as well.
Isaiah Briscoe and Skal Labissiere to decide on Thursday
As the No. 4 overall player in the 2015 class, and a prospect with some of the best upside, Labissiere will be an intriguing announcement for a number of reasons. For one, the 6-foot-11 native of Haiti was recently linked to a new prep school created by his legal guardian to play his senior season.
Baylor, Georgetown, Kentucky, Memphis, North Carolina, and Tennessee are still involved in the recruitment, according to the ESPN release and there are more questions than answers surrounding the big man’s future. Will he qualify academically? Will Skal go and play professionally overseas for a year?
Meanwhile, Briscoe, the No. 9 overall player in the 2015 class, is down to UConn, Kentucky and St. John’s. Kentucky and St. John’s are the two leaders in the clubhouse for the nation’s best point guard prospect.
The 6-foot-3 New Jersey native is a major playmaker as a passer or a scorer and would be a major impact in a class that doesn’t have many guards.
If Kentucky is somehow able to land both Briscoe and Labissiere, then John Calipari would be off to a great start in another class and has more potential one-and-done NBA prospects.
It should be an exciting week on the recruiting trail with so many marquee players making choices.
Dozier returned to playing this spring after having surgery to repair a torn ACL in September. He’s known as a playmaking wing, with great passing abilities. This summer, Dozier appeared in the Reebok Breakout Challenge in Philadelphia and the NBPA Top 100 Camp in Virginia. He also led his grassroots team, Upward Stars, to an appearance in the Under Armour Association Finals during the second week of the July live evaluation period.
Dozier is rated as the No. 40 overall recruit by Rivals.
PHILADELPHIA — P.J. Dozier lost his junior season as a high schooler because of a knee injury that he suffered while competing at the Adidas Nations camp in Los Angeles last August.
It wasn’t anything serious that happened, just an awkward step that resulted in a tweaked knee. But when two weeks passed without the knee feeling any better, Dozier and his family decided it was time to get it looked at.
“That’s when I finally went back to the doctor and they told me that they couldn’t even see an ACL in there,” Dozier told NBCSports.com at The Showdown, an AAU tournament hosted by Elevate Hoops in Philadelphia.
Before Dozier had even entered his teenage years, the son of former South Carolina big man Perry Dozier had suffered a serious knee injury that left him with a torn ACL and a torn MCL. The decision was made at the time to get the MCL repaired surgically, but due to fears about stunting his growth, the family opted not to have P.J.’s ACL fixed.
Between the time of the injury, the younger Dozier was named the best sixth-grader in America before developing into a top 50 recruit that is being pursued by a number of elite programs, North Carolina, Kansas, Georgetown and Indiana among them. His growth wasn’t hurt much, either, as he’s sprouted into a 6-foot-6 combo-guard. “I’m supposed to get up to 6-foot-8 or 6-foot-9, hopefully,” he said with a laugh.
But none of that changed the fact that he was playing with a torn ACL in one of his knees, something that the family knew eventually would have to get repaired. “It was hurting, but I didn’t feel like it was holding me back any,” Jones said. “After a few years, honestly I forgot about the injury [but] it’s something that had to get done. I’ve always tweaked it here and there throughout the years, but after one or two weeks, I’d feel back to normal. This was different.”
So in September of last year, as a result of the injury he suffered in LA, Dozier finally has the surgery to repair his ACL. The procedure was successful, but as is the case with any major knee surgery, it’s ten months later and Dozier is still working his way through the recovery process. He only returned to the court at the start of the summer, but according to Dozier, the priority in his rehab was put on getting back the range of motion in the knee and, once that was accomplished, “I kind of gradually went away from that and starting to strengthen it up.”
For any athlete, but particularly for a basketball player, the most difficult part about returning from an extended period of time away from the game is getting their legs back. Not just the strength, either: explosiveness, quickness and, most importantly, endurance.
“Keep hitting the weight room, keep building up my strength and agility,” Dozier said of his recovery plans this spring, while noting there we an added benefit to being forced into the weight room. “That’s one thing I feel a lot better about this year than past years. Not being able to get out on the court, that’s something I was focusing on.”
Dozier caught another break as well in that he’s not a guy that relies on his physical tools to get by. He doesn’t like to put a label on his position — “I don’t want to be a full time anything,” he said. “I want to be versatile, to play different positions as I do now.” — but that’s more because of what he’s able to do than physical limitations. He might be the smoothest player in the class, to the point that it’s hard to tell just how hard he competes, as well as an elite-level passer. He can still thrive while he waits for his knee to get back to full strength.
And he is still waiting.
“It’s close to 100%,” he said, “but I feel like I’ve got a little ways to go.”