PC Recruiting: Lindsey’s journey has already begun
Friday, April 11, 2014
There's a lot to like about Jalen Lindsey.
There's the pretty jump shot that he flashed on ESPN2 last week as his Huntington Prep team took on the top high school team in the country, a lengthy basketball resume that began with a scholarship offer from Memphis when he was playing varsity basketball in 8th grade and included back-to-back state championships at Christ Presbyterian Academy (CPA), and his growing reputation as a potential shut down defender.
At Friarbasketball.com we've been tracking Lindsey for two years, catching up with CPA head coach Drew Maddux in Sept. 2012 after Ed Cooley visited campus on the first day of the live period. Maddux, a former All-SEC guard at Vanderbilt, raved about Lindsey's talent then and after months of hard work, Cooley and his staff landed a big time prize when Lindsey committed to Providence last July.
Soon after the Friars received commitments from 7-2 center Paschal Chukwu and 6-8 power forward Ben Bentil, giving PC one of the top 25 recruiting classes in the country. There's a lot to like about the potential of this group, but after speaking to Lindsey this week it quickly became apparent there is a lot to like about him off the court as well.
We caught up with Jalen and his father Walt to learn more about Lindsey's journey to Providence, his development as a player and a person, his budding friendships with his future teammates and more.
I don't think there was anybody more real than Ed...
This seemed like an uphill battle from the start. One of the most highly regarded small forwards in the country, who lived over 1,000 miles from Providence, didn't seem likely to choose the Friars in the summer of 2012, but Cooley was undeterred.
Lindsey's father grew up in Woonsocket, and he still has family and close friends in the area, but to hear Walt Lindsey tell it, his ties to the area were more of a perk than a deciding factor in his son's college destination.
"What I’ve always done with Jalen was teach him to make his own decisions. I’ve always taught him to take pride in being a leader and not a follower, which means that I want to equip him to make his own decisions," Walt shared.
Jalen had only been to the area two or three times in his life, so while there was a comfort in having loved ones nearby, there were bigger selling points -- the head coach was a big one.
"I love Ed Cooley. I’ve talked to a lot of coaches and I don’t think there was anybody that was more real with us than Ed. It was the good, the bad and the ugly. He talked about the things that were good and he talked about the things that Jalen needed to work on. He was straight, but he was also really hyped about Jalen and selling the program and how he can fit in.
When you’re talking to so many coaches it all starts to sound the same after a while, but Ed just won us over," he added. "I think Jalen saw that as well and he won Jalen over too."
There were a lot of people trying to win over Jalen Lindsey -- and from an early age. The Lindseys had no expectation of Jalen playing varsity basketball at 13 years old, but he started to get local notoriety after being interviewed by a Nashville TV station, and his stock exploded the summer prior to his freshman year when he was named one of the top three freshmen at Chicago's Fab Frosh camp.
In a world of insta-stars, Jalen credits his father and grandfather for keeping him level-headed: "When I got my first offer from Memphis in 8th grade I was more surprised than anything. My granddad (Walter Sr.) is a minister at our church and my dad is a really holy man, so they talked to me about being humble every day, and that’s how I stayed grounded. Those men in my life helped me all the way to where I am today."
"We could see that the media attention was about to go up, so we wanted to keep him level-headed," explained Walt. "We told him not to get caught in this trap of watching rankings."
Jalen is 17, he'll turn 18 at the end of the month...
"My relationship with Ed Cooley is one of a kind. The only relationship I’ve had with a coach like that is Drew Maddux. Coach Drew coached me from when I was little all the way up, and we’ve had that father-son type mentor relationship, and I think that’s the type of relationship I have with Coach Cooley. It’s a special relationship and I think it will go a long way outside of basketball also."
Talk to the Lindseys and you're just as likely to hear about education and character as you are X's and O's. Jalen describes himself as a person who "likes to work hard. I take my grades very seriously."
Apparently, so. He's carried a 4.0 GPA at Huntington Prep this season. Walt shared that the coaches at Huntington were surprised with Jalen's maturity.
Walt feels Providence is a great fit. "Jalen is not a one-and-done type of player. He doesn’t have that mentality. Jalen is 17, he’ll turn 18 by the end of this month.
He's going somewhere where he can be nurtured and groomed and develop himself into a man and get his education. That’s what Ed was really selling. We didn’t go into this thinking about how he can get to the NBA. We all believe in our family that basketball is just a vehicle, a blessing for him to have the opportunity to get an education.
You don’t have to go to a Louisville or Kentucky or Tennessee to make it to the NBA," Walt continued. "Providence is putting guys in the league if that’s what you want to do, but at the end of the day I liked the family structure. I liked the support that he is going to get. I liked the support of the administration when we met them. All of those things were great fits."
When asked what type of person PC fans can expect, his father shared, "He's a very mature young man. He’s very respectful and responsible. Very, very personable. Everybody who meets him will realize he’s a good kid. We always get feedback from people about their interactions with him.
He’s going to be responsible and he’s going to take care of his business. You’re going to get a kid who wants to achieve some high goals."
That's a challenge I'd love to take...
Lindsey began to realize that Providence could be the place for him midway through his junior year. There will be plenty of young men who are drawn to college basketball's traditional powers, but as his recruiting process entered year four Jalen began to look at things differently: "I realized that it’s about more than the bright lights and big schools. Providence has something special and I think Coach Cooley and the coaches are doing a great job and they’re continuing to get great players, so I want to be a part of that."
Cooley and all of Friartown are all too pleased that he will be a part of this program going forward. Blessed with very good athleticism and size (6-7), Lindsey is already a knock down jump shooter, and at just 17 he has plenty of room for physical development. Cooley has told Lindsey that playing time will be there for him early, as the Friars look to fill the scoring void left behind by an All-Big East guard.
"He (Cooley) told me he would need me to come in and play right away, and help fill in the gap with Bryce Cotton leaving. I love challenges and I think that’s a challenge I’d love to take."
I'm more ready for college than I would have been...
Jalen ended up at CPA in large part due to Maddux, who had coached him and his closest friends since they were 10 years old. They'd won a pair of state titles together and Lindsey had established himself as the best player in Tennessee in the process. For as much as he cared for Maddux and knew he'd miss his friends, Lindsey made the decision to head to Huntington Prep for his last season of high school ball.
He explained that at CPA they had simply outgrown the competition, winning nearly every game rather easily, and at his size he was playing on the interior, but at the collegiate level he'd be on the perimeter. Huntington had been calling since his freshman year and after years of "thanks, but no thanks," he took the plunge and it's made him a better player.
While he misses home and his friends, he says the move was worthwhile, as he's now a better defender and ball handler and he's played against top competition more consistently.
"It was definitely a good move, we would do it again," Walt said. "Leaving Drew was the toughest thing. He's a great guy, a great Christian man who helped develop a lot of the traits Jalen has on the basketball court as well as a man. Unfortunately, what they couldn’t provide for him was an opportunity to work at the position he’s going to play in college."
I couldn't get over how well they meshed...
Lindsey was the first domino to fall in a 2014 recruiting haul that 247sports ranks 20th in the country. The three-man class added a fourth on Monday when Compton, CA point guard Kyron Cartwright joined Lindsey, Chukwu and Bentil.
The three fall commits were all on campus, along with 2015 commit Ryan Fazekas, for Late Night Madness last October, and Walt said he "couldn't get over" how well the group meshed with each other.
"My relationship with those guys is great. I’ve known Ben before Providence and I’d known Paschal a little bit before, but we didn’t talk much. Both are really funny, genuine guys. Our chemistry is strong and I can’t wait to get to campus with those guys."
Jalen also offered a brief scouting report on each, "Paschal has potential that’s through the roof. He hasn’t been playing a long time, but he blocks everything. He gets better every day; every time I’ve seen him he’s gotten better. He reminds me of a Joel Embiid, how he hadn’t played a lot of basketball before coming to Kansas and now he’s going to be the number 1 or 2 pick in the league.
Ben is a really big senior. He already has a college body, and is really strong. He's a bigger four, a blue collar player, and I think Providence fans should be excited to see those guys."
Excited they are. In fact, the excitement for this group couldn't be much higher.
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