He was the first USC men's basketball player to be named SEC Player of the Year and he was a part of the best season in the history of the program. But SIndarius Thornwell says earning his degree and walking across the stage at the Colonial Life Arena is actually more gratifying than making it to the Final Four.

"This is the biggest accomplishment," Thornwell said.

"This is probably bigger than any basketball accomplishment because basketball is my love and everything. But basketball runs out. You know I can't play basketball my whole life. But getting this degree and having me a backup plan, I'll have this the rest of my life."

A sociology major, Thornwell had some great memories at the Colonial Life Arena. The Lancaster native's last appearance had been on Feb,. 28, a victory over Mississippi State on Senior Night. As he arrived at the arena Saturday morning for graduation ceremonies, Thornwell took a few moments to reflect.

"I just thought, 'Man, this is my last time in here'," he said.

"It kind of settled in. This is my last time in the arena and I just started thinking about all the great games. You know, the fans, the support was just great, you know, just reminiscing.

"You know, I'm going to miss it because from the time I got here to now, we built a great atmosphere, a great home court atmosphere. The fans are great. The support is great from everybody and it's definitely something I'm going to miss."

Thornwell was joined in the Class of 2017 by teammates Justin McKie and Duane Notice. All three leave Columbia with their degrees in hand. Thornwell will be making a living playing basketball somewhere. He hopes it will be in the NBA as he has been invited to next week's combine in Chicago.