The 2014 South Carolina Pro-Am got underway Thursday night at the Heathwood Hall Episcopal School gym, and Gamecock Central was there for the highlights in games with several current and former University of South Carolina athletes participating.
With every 2014-15 USC basketball player with the exception of freshmen Shamiek Sheppard (injury) and James Thompson (legal) competing, the event is a showcase for how far they've come in the offseason and an opportunity for them to hone specific skills the coaches want against stout competition from other colleges and professional leagues, all with the idea of bringing the best South Carolina talent to one gymnasium.
In Thursday's action, Laimonas Chatkevicius and Duane Notice showcased excellent form in the league's opening game, with Notice looking extremely toned and having lost, he said, about 16 pounds. Notice scored 13 points with nine assists and two steals in solid play, but it was Chatkevicius who had the more-impressive game. Playing in his first S.C. Pro-Am action after spending last summer playing in Lithuania for his national team, Chatkevicius dominated opponents inside with his skill and size and finishing with 15 points and 8 rebounds, most of which (13 points) came in the first half as he sat out the majority of the second half. He even sank a 3-pointer on the game's opening possession.
For his nice inside play, however, Chatkevicius did have one low-light he'd prefer to forget. Clemson's Austin Ajukwa, listed at a generous 6-foot-6, had a poster-worthy windmill dunk in his face that brought the large crowd to its feet in appreciation and added a bit of spice to the USC-Clemson rivalry that's also a component of the Pro-Am as six Clemson players also are participating in the league.
In the second game of the night, equally impressive performances were turned in by All-SEC Freshman Team honoree Sindarius Thornwell and Demetrius Henry. After struggling in the opening half, Thornwell turned it on to finish with 20 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists, while Henry, playing against former USC standout Carlos Powell, scrapped his way to 15 points and 8 rebounds (Powell, for the record, had 26). Playing alongside Powell was current USC player Justin McKie, who finished with 12 points and 9 assists.
In the night's final game, USC freshman TeMarcus Blanton teamed-up with sophomore Reggie Theus Jr., with both players finishing with 11 points. Blanton added 7 rebounds and 9 assists, while Theus Jr. had 8 rebounds.
Play resumes Sunday beginning at 2 p.m., with all eight teams in action. All games take place at Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, and all games are free and open to the public. Concessions are available for purchase.