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Jake Lindsey is the Likeliest Unlikely Hero

This 6-5 guard could be Baylor’s most important player for years to come

Baylor v Yale Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Do you remember when Jake Lindsey first visited the national consciousness?

The game was tight in the closing minutes, and Scott Drew needed to do something imaginative to pull out a second straight road victory in Ames, Iowa. To the absolute consternation of the Iowa State Cyclones, Drew pulled out the box-and-one defense in an attempt to silence Georges Niang. The man tasked with guarding the all-conference player? The freshman guard from Salt Lake City, Jake Lindsey. Baylor won the game, and no one really heard anything from Niang.

In some ways, Lindsey’s presence on Baylor’s roster is obvious. His father, current Utah Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey, graduated from Baylor in 1992. The elder Lindsey was an assistant general manager with the San Antonio Spurs from 2007-2012 before taking the head job with the Jazz. Jake grew up near the likes of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, and Tim Duncan. Lindsey is also big. He’s a 6-5 point guard with just enough speed and strength to defend positions 1-3 in college. How could a player with this heritage and that size not find a spot in a major college rotation?

When you look at his clean-cut hair and boyish face, though, it’s hard to imagine a player who could reshape the trajectory of a program. Only a three-star recruit coming out of high school, Lindsey doesn’t sport much of a jump shot, isn’t likely to beat many guys off the dribble, and is only an average perimeter defender. The Bears’ back court rotation didn’t exactly light the world on fire, and still Lindsey only managed to average 12 minutes per game despite being a backup at multiple positions. The speed of the game was obviously too much for him early in the season. There was little to suggest that Lindsey could become anything more than a decent college player.

You should expect more from Jake Lindsey’s sophomore campaign.

Need an ambitious player comparison to kick off your enthusiasm? Check out Michael Carter-Williams’ freshman season. Despite being a five-star recruit, Carter-Williams was buried on the bench his freshman year. He averaged only 10 minutes his freshman season and score just 2.7 points to pair with 2.1 assists per game. Like Lindsey, he wasn’t much of a rebounder for his size and wasn’t exactly a steals generator despite playing at the top of a zone defense. In his sophomore season, Carter-Williams became a starter, averaged 12 pts-7 asts-5 rebs, and became the 11th overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft.

Now, Lindsey was not nearly so highly touted as Carter-Williams coming out of high school. He doesn’t have the same kind of athleticism, and Baylor’s back court features several capable guards. Lindsey has the tools, however, to reshape the game when he’s on the floor.

With a year of experience and a summer of conditioning under his belt, Lindsey should be able to correct some of the troubles that ailed him early in his first year. His 6-5 height is an incredible asset when paired with his ball-handling skills. His passing vision is second only to Ish Wainright on this team. His basketball IQ, honed by years near the NBA game, is likely among the highest on the team. His defense, suspect early, leveled out as the season went on, and after years of sub-optimal size at the point of attack, Baylor might finally have a player who can be a problem at the top of the key.

Lindsey is among the most versatile players on the roster. He can play in any backcourt combination Drew can configure, and he can fill minutes at the small forward position for stretches. Need offense? Put the ball in Lindsey’s hands and let him find Manu Lecomte, King McClure, Al Freeman, or Ish Wainright on the perimeter while the defense is worried about Johnathan Motley under the rim. Need defense? Slide Lindsey in alongside McClure, Wainright, Terry Maston, and Motley and lean back as those long arms and active hands shut off passing lanes.

Sure, Lindsey doesn’t have much of a jump shot. With the ball in his hands, does he need one? Lecomte, Freeman, and McClure are lethal from deep, but they don’t have what it takes to make shots for themselves consistently. Put Lindsey and Motley in a pick-and-roll, and Lindsey has the savvy to make the pocket pass to his big guy or to make the cross court pass for the open corner three when that defender digs down into the paint. Lindsey understands how to set his teammates up, and with the tools he will have around him, he could lead a lethal Baylor offense without sacrificing anything on defense.

Only a sophomore, Jake Lindsey could become the program cornerstone for years to come, and this is the year when he could begin to build his heroic legacy.