When the security guard stepped aside, allowing members of the media to invade the Baylor locker room inside Vivint Smart Home Arena, the first player seen seated in front of his locker was Jake Lindsey. Like all his teammates, he was scrolling through his phone, sneakers laced up, his practice gear on, ready to get out onto the court and prepare for No. 1 seed Gonzaga. Life and basketball are symbiotic for Lindsey, the former Olympus High star who went on to play at his father’s alma mater in Waco, Texas.
Which makes this week beautiful and, at times, brutal.
Lindsey gets to be out there on the bench, in the arena he grew up frequenting, seeing the senior year that never materialized continue in his hometown of Salt Lake City. But being able to sleep in his own bed during the tournament is a plus, he admits. The 6-foot-5 guard played in every game his first three years at Baylor, helping the Bears make NCAA Tournament runs around the country. A hip injury that needed surgery last year preceded something no one saw coming: a diagnosis that would end his playing career for good.
“Honestly you just try to be grateful that you’re still involved,” he said. “You could easily be out of basketball and not have a team to be a part of. When you look at it that way, it’s a blessing more than anything.”
Lindsey was recently forced to write an au revoir to hoops after he revealed that he was diagnosed with Parsonage-Turner syndrome, a rare physical disorder that affects 1 out of 100,000 people. The syndrome causes arm and shoulder nerve pain, numbness and the atrophy of impacted muscles. Lindsey consulted specialists after the pain lingered last summer following his hip surgery.
“Can’t really explain what happened, just kind of is what it is,” Lindsey said.
The pain? “Not fun,” Lindsey conceded.
Back in Salt Lake for this first week of the NCAA Tournament has been like “two worlds colliding.” Lindsey sits on the end of the Baylor bench now in jeans and a black Baylor Bears top. He holds onto a towel to wave in elation or frustration. He’s out there to find any way he can to help his team. If there’s a tidbit to share, he’ll share it. If not, he’s out there to ensure his guys are feeling as confident as possible during every timeout.
“He’s doing everything he can besides basketball,” said freshman guard Jared Butler.
“I don’t see no different in Jake, whether he’s out there or he’s not — he’s the same,” said sophomore forward Mario Kegler. “He feels like just a younger coach on this team.”
Ask around and those who know him don’t shy away from the lofty comparison to his father, Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey, himself a former Baylor player. Even as Jake explains the emotions of this week, of his career being unfortunately derailed, of discussing how to knock off the No. 1 Zags, he even sounds like his old man at times. The signature Texas drawl might not be there all the time, but it appears every so often.
“He could be a coach, he could be a GM, he could run his own financial company,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew.
Jake graduated cum laude from Baylor last summer with a degree in finance. He’d like to go to law school or attend an MBA program back in Utah. His fiancee is planning on attending physician assistant school in the area, too. There is hope that his involvement in basketball isn’t over, and those who know him believe the future has much to offer.
“I’d like to work in basketball,” Lindsey said. “I don’t know what that looks like yet, but it’s what I love. But there’s no guarantees. It’s wherever the chips fall, I guess.”