Recruiting at Providence College has certainly picked up ever since Ed Cooley was hired. Despite the good early classes that included top recruits like Jordan Brand All American Ricardo Ledo and McDonald's All American Kris Dunn, Cooley's recruiting pulls were said to be the result only of local ties and good timing. Many people thought it was an anomaly and were in "show me" mode waiting for Cooley to prove he could bring in a top player from outside the Northeast region. Jalen Lindsey was that player.
While some might say that his father growing up in Rhode Island means he is just another local ties recruit, let's take a closer look to get some perspective on Jalen Lindsey's recruitment. His final 9 schools were Auburn, Florida, Louisville, Mississippi State, North Carolina, Ohio State, Providence, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. Which one of those is not like the other? Lindsey would routinely say that Providence was the school recruiting him the hardest each time he was asked by a reporter. Ed Cooley and Bob Simon were relentless. They were a constant presence in Nashville and even flew down to attend CPA's State championship game.
Lindsey's old high school coach at CPA in Nashville, Drew Maddux recently said "Ed Cooley, in all of the country, of all the coaches I deal with, I would say he would be in the upper percentile of relationship builders. He's outstanding. He and his staff invest time...when they identify a player, they work like crazy, he and his staff to build a relationship with those guys and they've done a great job. In Jalen's case...outstanding job in building a relationship with Jalen's parents, with myself, with all the people that Jalen interacted with." To top it all off, FriarBasketball.com's Kevin Farrahar recently said that Jalen's father, Walt described "his ties to the area... [as] more of a perk than a deciding factor in his son's college destination." The thing that sealed this recruitment was Ed Cooley. Not Rhode Island or even Providence College really.
Coach Maddux added on to that quote above by saying "oh by the way, there happened to be a class of 2016 player at the same school that is coming behind that they established that same relationship with as a result of what they had done with Jalen himself. So, Ed and his staff do a great, great job of establishing relationships." That 2016 player referenced by Coach Maddux is Braxton Blackwell who is ranked as the 27th best player in the class of 2016 by Scout.com. When I asked Jalen about his relationship with Braxton and whether they have talked about playing together again in college, he had this to say: "Braxton Blackwell and I are really good friends and have been for a really long time. We started playing AAU with each other for the Nashville Celtics when we were little. Braxton is such a great kid and great player. Yes we have talked about playing together in college but you never know what's going to happen." Lindsey also happens to be good friends with another PC recruit who would be able to get on campus a lot sooner than Braxton. 2014 PG recruit Larry Austin was recently released by Tennessee and Providence has contacted him and his coach. Jalen said "me and Larry are really, really good friends. We've been at camps together since we were in 8th grade. We played on camp teams and against each other in AAU. Our relationship is very strong and has been like that for a while." When I asked if he would be putting on the full court press to help Cooley land his friend, Lindsey said "I already have. I think we could really, really use Larry. He's such a great guy and I've been talking to him."
The thing that stands out the most to me about Jalen Lindsey is his maturity. When you hear someone talk about one of their coaches like this it's obvious they know what's important: "[Coach Drew Maddux] is such a great coach and such a great man outside of the court. He taught us how to be a man and life is much more than basketball. I think that's something that's made me the person I am today. He's such a great coach." Another telling sign is that Lindsey used to read and dwell on recruiting rankings and scouting reports but his attitude towards that stuff now is one that is both refreshing and full of perspective. "I know what kind of player I am and I know who I am so I don't need the rankings to try prove who I am or anything." For such a young person - he just turned 18 on Saturday - Lindsey really seems to get it. His attitude, demeanor and perspective on life probably help to explain why he likes Ed Cooley so much.
When I read him a quote from Cooley's radio show on Saturday before the end of season banquet in which the coach discussed how he "want[s] to see these kids (his players) have life success", Lindsey's reaction was - "That's really powerful and it's real. It's from his heart...and he means every word of that. That's something you don't see a lot of coaches have these days. That's why I think Coach Cooley is so special. It's more than basketball to him. He wants to help players to get jobs when they get older if they don't make it to the NBA, stuff like that...I think that's what he's all about. That's what I love the most about Coach Cooley. I think that's what most caught my parent's eyes and they fell in love with Providence before I even did."
Later in our discussion, Lindsey said, "I had hundreds of coaching coming at me. Coaches from all over...The realest things that I heard were when I talked to Coach Cooley and when my parents talked to Coach Cooley and Coach Simon. They were genuine and they told the truth. I think that's what my parents looked for the most. They were a family type atmosphere. I think that's what I was looking for...I think for Coach Cooley its more than just basketball to him. I think he's more a mentor that his players can talk to...I think that's what really attracted me. He's the main reason I'm going to Providence." When I asked Jalen what sold him on Providence College besides Cooley he had this to say: "I love the campus. I love the atmosphere. The fans are phenomenal. A lot of these big schools have big basketball programs but they also have really big football programs that may overshadow the basketball programs and I think that at Providence...it's really all basketball."
Are you loving this kid yet Friar fans?
Talking to him on the phone, its eery how much he sounds like Ed Cooley, both the sound of his voice and the things that he says. Friar fans will definitely enjoy getting to know Jalen Lindsey during his time at Providence College. He said that despite never being in a dunk contest in his life, he is eyeing the dunk contest trophy at Late Night Madness this year. More importantly, Lindsey discussed what he believes will be the key for him in his freshman season: "I think that I need to come in and, really my freshman year, it's [important] to find my role and then work on that role. I think that will help in the long run." Cooley hasn't given him any specifics on where he fits in with the system because the coach is still looking to add another player or two to next year's roster but Jalen is most comfortable on the wing and he expects to get a clearer picture on his role when he arrives on campus in early June.
He lists one of his biggest weaknesses as ball handling right now since he never really had to handle the ball much until he got to Huntington Prep because he played down in the post at CPA. He thinks his biggest strength is his athleticism and he believes his defensive ability is his most college-ready skill. "It's something I kind of just picked up this year... [because] at CPA we played mostly zone the whole game...This year having to guard people I got better and better as the year went on and then I started wanting to take the role of guarding everybody's best player when nobody else wanted to and I think that's helped and will help in the long run as I go into college...it's not 100% but as time goes on it'll get even better."
Interestingly his prowess from beyond the arc is something "that kind of just happened...at Huntington Prep." He always could shoot the 3 ball but because he played mostly in the post at CPA he was relegated to inside scoring and some midrange jump shooting and said he didn't really develop the confidence to shoot the three until getting to Huntington Prep and playing more on the wing. While he describes leaving CPA for Huntington Prep for his Senior season as a "hard transition...[because] it was difficult being away from family and leaving my teammates I've been with since I'm little", he recognized "that if I wanted to get to where I wanted to be I had to work harder and play against better competition."
One of the biggest changes of playing at Huntington Prep was that he would now be playing mainly on the wing. He knew that meant he would have to be more aggressive on the offensive end which he credited for helping increase his confidence in shooting from deep. But a lack of assertiveness on the offensive end is one reason cited for why Lindsey dropped from the 30's to the 60's in some recruiting services' national rankings after his AAU season prior to his senior year. I described to Jalen how Coach Cooley used to yell at Bryce Cotton to shoot the ball more and inquired whether that's something he thinks Cooley might have to do with him early in his PC career: "As a person and a player, I'm very unselfish. I do think he'll have to get on me to shoot the ball more because that's just not the guy I am. I'm not looking to shoot every shot. I'm looking to get my teammates going. I'll shoot the ball but that's not what my main goal is. I think I need to be more selfish and I think that's what he'll push me to do...It's not a bad thing at all and it's something I'm ready for."
Another thing Jalen is ready for is Providence's trip to Rupp Arena this season. He said "I'm excited. That's a highlighted game on my schedule that I'm ready to play. It's one of those schools that recruited me a little bit but not enough and I take that as kind of disrespect. I cannot wait to play them so I can show them that you guys missed out...I think it will be a really good game...I think we'll actually beat 'em so I guess we'll just see."
Jalen has only been out of the country once and has never been to Italy so he's looking forward to the team's preseason trip to Italy this summer. "I'm excited about starting during the summer and building that chemistry that we'll need to start the year...I'm just going to listen and learn what those guys (upperclassmen) are saying and pick that up. I think that's one of the most important things...They all have knowledge that I need to know."
Lindsey said he hasn't talked to Kyron Cartwright yet but is looking forward to meeting him. He does stay in contact with the two other players in this recruiting class though. "I've known those guys (Ben Bentil and Paschal Chukwu) for a while. We have a group message together. We just kind of talk back and forth about how we're ready for Providence and how much we're going to have to work to play and how it's not going to be easy...we talk every now and then and check up on each other."
Ed Cooley has brought in a recruiting class ranked in the top 25 by most recruiting services and he still isn't done quite yet with the 2014 class. Jalen Lindsey was the first shoe to drop for Cooley in this class and his commitment sparked a bevy of articles from national writers about how Cooley has upped the ante with Providence's recruiting. Lindsey has the potential to be a future captain at Providence. For now, he will have to help pick up the mantle that Bryce Cotton and Kadeem Batts left. I have no doubt he will do just that and more.
Jalen Lindsey Goes One-on-One
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