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Saluki point guard T.J. Lindsay predicts team will come together quickly

November 13, 2011

By Tom Weber
Saluki Media Services

Saluki point guard T.J. Lindsay remembers last year’s NJCAA Division I National Tournament game against No. 6-ranked Coffeyville Community College like it was yesterday. He can recite every detail of the winning play, one in which he managed to sink the game-winning shot for his Monroe College Mustangs with 3.7 second remaining.

The score was tied with 30 second to go when Monroe head coach Jeff Brustad gathered his team in the huddle during a timeout. At stake was a berth in the Final Four, and Brustad called for a pick and roll between Lindsay and fellow guard Jeff Early. The play didn’t unfold exactly as planned.

“I got the ball and called Jeff up, but he didn’t see me at first,” Lindsay recalled. “By the time he did see me, he came kind of late. My man completely committed to the screen, so I just spun the other way, got into the lane and got a shot off over a big defender.”

The tear-drop jumper caught nothing but net and sent Monroe to its first Final Four in school history. Lindsay was the hero of the game with 17 points.

It was the crowning achievement in a season during which Lindsay played through a painful shin condition that kept him from practicing with the team on many days. Although his numbers — 7.4 points and 3.5 assists — were not extraordinary, he was the guiding hand behind a team that won 31 games, including 20-straight leading up to Coffeyville.

Lindsay’s basketball career began at Mansfield Middle School in Ohio, where the tall, lanky 8th grader was the team’s star power forward. When he got to high school, his coaches made him a point guard. The youngest of five children was a basketball junkie, who would watch college hoops all day and picture himself someday playing at the Division I level. By his senior year, he had fully grown into his 6-foot-3 frame and was closing in on his dream.

“My high school coaches told me that I could play college basketball, and that’s when I first started to believe it,” he said.

As a senior, Lindsay averaged 18.0 points and 4.0 assists and was the Ohio Cardinal Conference Player of the Year. Offers rolled in from Drake, Miami, Akron, Wright State, Toledo and Central Michigan.

Instead, he went to Mississippi Elite Christian Academy, a prep school, saying simply, “it was something I needed in my life at that time.” His experience at MECA in turn prepared him for the opportunity at Monroe College.

Eight months after hitting the game-winning shot against Coffeyville, both Lindsay and Early, his Monroe teammate, have moved halfway across the country to Southern Illinois. They are both starting guards for the Salukis.

For two player who have won 61 games together during the past two years, they were stunned to lose on Saturday in the opener against Ohio Dominican. Lindsay asked fans for patience and promised that the team would do everything in its power to come together quickly.

“When we first came out here last summer, nobody really knew each other,” he said. “We had high school guys, a couple of JUCO players, Dez (Jackson) from Wyoming, plus the returners, and it’s hard to blend everyone together. It’s going to take a little time, but basketball is a universal sport, and it will come.”

For Saluki fans who are unfamiliar with Lindsay’s game, he offers this description: “I think my strengths are my speed and ability to find the open man. I think I can handle the ball and handle pressure. As a weakness, I think sometimes I maybe try to go too fast. As a point guard, you have to set the pace, and that’s what I’m working on right now.”

On defense, he’s never been asked to pressure the ball the full length of the court, and is still getting used to the concept.

“You have to go out there with the mentality that you can’t let your guy get around you,” he said. “Full-court defense the whole game is really just a mindset. Once you get your mind right, you get comfortable with it.”

Having moved from Ohio to Mississippi to New York to Illinois in the past three years, Lindsay takes comfort in having Early as a close friend.

T.J. Lindsay transferred to SIU from Monroe College

“As soon as we met, we just clicked,” he said. “Our mentalities are the same. We both have common goals — we both want to play professionally. We both work hard and like to win. The main thing is having somebody who wants the same thing as you.”

They are both grateful for the opportunity to play at Southern Illinois and are optimistic about what they can accomplish at SIU.

“I love being a Saluki and putting on that jersey,” Lindsay said.

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From → Men's Basketball

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