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July 20, 2014

McKie, Notice shine at S.C. Pro-Am

The South Carolina Pro-Am saved its best game for last on Sunday afternoon, with USC sophomores Justin McKie and Duane Notice taking turns lighting up the scoreboard at Heathwood Hall Episcopal School in a matchup of undefeated teams.

In the end, McKie came out on top in the stat sheet and in the standings, netting 31 points to lead his team to the 108-104 victory.

Notice wasn't far behind, scoring 29 points.

"It was fun; it was cool to go up against Duane," McKie said after the game. "That's my boy. That's my guy. Going up against him is always fun."

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After a freshman season where he averaged just 4.7 minutes and 0.5 points per game, McKie has played with a new sense of confidence at the S.C. Pro-Am.

The former South Carolina Mr. Basketball scored eight points in the first 4 1/2 minutes on Sunday and went on to knock down seven 3s, some of them with defenders' hands in his face.

"Teammates just found me in the right spots," said McKie, who shot 12-for-16, including seven-for-nine behind the arc. "I was able to knock down some shots, and we were able to get a win."

Most of McKie's minutes came with him matched up against Torrey Craig, a former USC Upstate forward who led the Spartans to a 74-68 victory over South Carolina at the Colonial Life Arena last season.

McKie said playing against Craig, who guarded him harder and harder with every made basket, and other pros at the S.C. Pro-Am has helped him improve after a disappointing freshman season.

"Going up against pros out here, going up against guys like T-Craig, who had an outstanding college career, I think it'll help a lot for this upcoming season - for my confidence and for my skill set," McKie said.

Notice, who says he's slimmed down about 16 pounds since the season ended, nearly willed his team to the comeback victory, but came up short in the final minute. He set the tone for his team, hustling up and down the court while running the point on offense.

Among his highlights were several high-flying dunks and a pair of perfectly-weighted alley-oop lobs that found willing recipients on the way to the hoop.

He played alongside junior forward Laimonas Chatkevicius, who scored nine points and grabbed five rebounds.

In the first game of the day, Mindaugas Kacinas and Marcus Stroman matched up against a team void of South Carolina players.

Stroman, a pass-first point guard, scored 10 points and showed command of the offense. Kacinas showed some range as he knocked down three 3s, something he said Coach Frank Martin has encouraged him, Laimonas Chatkevicius and Demetrius Henry to work on over the offseason. Their team won by three.

In the second game, junior forwards Michael Carrera and Brian Steele matched up against freshman TeMarcus Blanton and sophomore forward Reggie Theus Jr.

Steele hit the game-winning mid-range jumper with less than six seconds remaining, while Carrera banged away in the post.

The junior from Venezuela was dunked on by Harlem Globetrotter Ty Beatty on back-to-back possessions early in the game, but bounced back to score 31 points and snag six rebounds.

Steele knocked down two 3s, finishing with eight points.

Freshman TeMarcus Blanton showed off plenty of athleticism and a sweet jumper, burying a flurry of mid-range shots and a pair of 3s. He ran the floor well, snagged a few steals and should add to USC's depth at guard next season.

He scored 18 points and picked up four boards. Theus Jr. had a serviceable game, scoring six points and grabbing two rebounds, though he struggled against bigger bodies in the paint.

Sophomore guard Sindarius Thornwell and forward Demetrius Henry faced off a team without any USC players in the third game. They were beaten thoroughly, losing 97-82 in the sloppiest game of the day.

Henry struggled from the field, missing jump shot after jump shot and neglecting to back down smaller opponents in the paint. Thornwell made several athletic plays at the rim and ran the fast break well, but found himself overmatched against a better team.

The Pro-Am resumes on Tuesday with a slate of three games scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

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