Draft night for aspiring pro athletes is the pinnacle for their careers. It's the start of dreams becoming reality. USC's Sindarius Thornwell went back to his hometown of Lancaster for his NBA draft watch party last Thursday night.
He was surrounded by family and friends but one person was missing; his uncle Dajuan. Dajuan passed away in 2015.
Better known as "Country", Dajuan was the catalyst for his nephew's career. Sindarius became SEC Player Of The Year and one of the best Gamecocks to put on a uniform by the end of his senior year.
Sharicka Thornwell, Sindarius' mother, describes the relationship that her brother and son shared.
"He went everywhere with Sindarius. He's the one who started Sindarius into basketball. AAU, the whole thing, Dajuan was there," Sharicka said. "His health started declining in 2015 and he had heart surgery. But Dajuan was his everything. We all miss him. We really do."
After years of training, games, ups, downs and success, the moment came when Thornwell found out that his dream came true. His named was announced during the second round round of the NBA draft.
Sindarius was picked 48th overall but the Milwaukee Bucks but through a trade he became a member of the LA Clippers. With all the cheers going on at the watch party his uncle was on his mind.
"He'd be going crazy if he was here," Sindarius said. "But I'm glad I can still make him proud. That's the main thing."
Shortly after being drafted Sindarius was overcome with emotion as he hugged his grandmother. His father, Greg Wade, helped describe his son's draft night.
"It's very special because he came from a long way. He put out what people thought he couldn't put out. He came a long way. As a father figure I'm proud of him and if Dajuan were here now he'd be proud of him too."
Wednesday is Dajaun Thornwell's birthday. He would have been 44 years old.
Sindarius can keep making his uncle and family proud as he embarks on his NBA career. Dajaun is still watching over his nephew just as he did when Sindarius first picked up a ball.