SALT LAKE CITY — Though Jake Lindsey couldn't get on the court his senior season after hip surgery and was later forced to pull the plug on his basketball playing career because of a rare shoulder ailment, things could have been worse.
The former Olympus High star player and son of Utah Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey credits his Baylor University teammates for giving him an assist in a tough situation.
"It’s easier when you win," Jake Lindsey said, smiling.
Baylor has done that 20 times this season, including the most important win of the season Thursday night — a riveting 78-69 first-round NCAA Tournament victory. Advancing to the second round for a matchup against No. 1 seed Gonzaga on Saturday night at Vivint Arena, the place where his dad works, added some extra sweetener to a bittersweet season that has him helping out from the bench instead of on the court.
"There’s days when it’s been hard," Lindsey admitted. "But we have a good group of guys. They’re a fun group to be around, they play the right way. It’s easy to root for them, easy to be involved in that kind of role."
Months before his senior season at the Big 12 program began, Lindsey underwent surgery on his hip and announced that he'd be redshirting while rehabbing. His dad helped him deal with the difficult emotions, having redshirted his sophomore year.
"We talked a lot about how to handle it," Jake Lindsey said. "He understands how it feels to watch. Luckily, my redshirt (team) is a lot better than the team was his year."
Remember, it's easier to sit on the sidelines during wins instead of during losses, perhaps mulling over how you could have helped your buddies win.
Strangely, Lindsey experienced nerve pain in his left shoulder after that hip surgery was performed in Salt Lake City last May. Through a series of tests, Lindsey was diagnosed with a rare condition called Parsonage-Turner syndrome, which can cause frequent bouts of pain and muscle atrophy. It bothers him when he rotates it certain ways and wouldn't hold up well through screens and other contact and motions.
The hip, which has bothered him since his sophomore season of high school because of a condition known as "femoral acetabular impingement," is getting better nearly a year after the surgery. Lindsey has even begun to hoop it up with team managers.
But he'll be dealing with shoulder issues — he says he only has half a shoulder — for the rest of his life.
Because of that, Lindsey recently decided to hang up his hightops on a competitive level. A couple of weeks ago, he thanked God, his family, fiancee, friends, coaches, trainers, team personnel and teachers before declaring his retirement from the sport he loves in a touching and thoughtful blog on the Baylor Athletics website.
"I have some unfortunate news: I've played my last game in a Baylor uniform," Lindsey wrote. "I don't mean to seem dramatic, but it took me a long while to be able to write that sentence, and much longer than that to come to grips with it.
"Getting to be on the Baylor men's basketball team is truly a childhood dream that I've been blessed enough to live out every day for the last four years."
Sitting in the Vivint Arena locker room before Friday's practice, Lindsey recalled that he was handed an info packet and given an explanation from the medical staff about a shoulder condition he'd never heard of before.
"It was tough. It wasn’t fun," he said. "It's kind of a rare thing. You don't really know the cure or the cause. That ambiguity can be hard to accept."
Lindsey interrupted himself, shifting from talking about himself to his teammates, who he says make his inability to play and shoulder ailment "easy to forget about." That team-first mentality isn't surprising if you know him.
"First of all, Jake loves Baylor. He's well-respected with all the team," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "And once he knew he couldn't play, he wanted to do whatever he could to help the team. He's a great voice of reason and he does a great job helping the young guys out as far as what he sees.
"And the great thing is Jake is very intelligent. He could be a coach, he could be a GM, he could run his own financial company. So we're just glad that he loves Baylor and wants to help."
In May, he and his fiancee, Tiger, will relocate to Utah where they plan on attending grad school. It's possible he'll follow his dad's footsteps and pursue a non-playing career in hoops, but he's not quite sure where his path will lead.
"I love basketball," he said. "It's what I love to do."
For now, Lindsey would rather talk about his team's matchup with the Zags — "You have a healthy respect for them because they’re really good; you can’t fear them" — and is enjoying being in a city and arena he loves with a group of guys he also loves.Comment on this story
Lindsey's teammates — some of whom appreciated his culinary recommendations in SLC — told him they now believe what he's been telling them about the Wasatch Front.
Lindsey smiled and said the've told him, "This is a lot prettier than Waco."
He told them so.
"I tried not to hype up the mountains too much," Lindsey said, "but luckily the weather’s been great, the views have been awesome, the food's been good and the rims were kind to us too (against Syracuse), so they didn't mind that at all."