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Friday / October 7.
  • St. John’s Lindsey Nearly Quit After Brother’s Murder

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    NEW YORK — St. John’s guard Nurideen Lindsey didn’t touch a basketball for more than a year after his younger brother was murdered in early 2009, and considered giving up the sport he loved altogether.

    “My mom threw every basketball in my house out,” the 6-foot-3 Lindsey said Friday at St. John’s. “We didn’t have a basketball in my house. I didn’t touch a basketball, let alone play basketball for almost a year and three months.

    “I just spent a lot of time with my family. Our family bond, it got unbelievable after that situation.”

    As detailed in a New York Times story last year, in April 2009 Halim Lindsey, then 16, was shot dead on a friend’s front porch in West Philadelphia.

    Lindsey also lost his best friend, Kevin Leland, to cancer. Five years before Halim’s death, Nurideen’s older brother, Jilani Schenck, was also murdered.

    To this day, Lindsey wears the No. 10, Halim’s high school number, in his honor. He has tattoos above both eyes in honor of his brothers. Above his right eye is a small heart and the Arabic spelling of Halim’s name. Above his left eye is a small crown and the word ‘Fes,” which was Jilani’s nickname.

    Lindsey, who earned the nickname “Too Easy” after outplaying Brooklyn schoolboy star Lance Stephenson in an all-star game, fell into a state of depression and abruptly gave up the sport after Halim’s death.

    “I just felt like I didn’t have any reason of being here anymore,” he said.

    When he finally picked up a basketball more than a year later, it still didn’t feel quite right.

    “The first time I did it, it was tough because I started about thinking about my younger brother so I started dealing with a little bit of emotional things during the time,” Lindsey said. “But when I realized that I was still able to do what I was doing before that point, the second time the only problem was I just out of shape.

    “But my God-given abilities were still there and that’s probably when I realized that I needed to just get back on track and continue to do what I was doing.”

    Lindsey’s father had been in and out of jail, and his mother, Gina Schenck, was deeply troubled over her son’s emotional state after Halim’s death.

    It was at that point that a mystery man Gina met at a bank began to transform their lives.

    His name was Harry Williams.

    “My mom told him that she was stressed because her son had an opportunity to do something with basketball and we went through a tragic situation, and I just basically gave everything up,” Lindsey said. “Not having a father figure in my life, it was tough for her trying to figure out what to do to get me back on track.”

    He added: “This guy showed that he had more faith in me than anybody that I knew for over five years and I only knew this guy for three months. He showed an unbelievable amount of faith in me, and didn’t know me from a can of paint…

    “For three weeks straight, this guy hired tutors and he was at my door 6 o’clock every morning, picking me up and taking me tutoring for my GED tests for me to get ready to go to junior college. After I passed my GED, he had junior colleges calling me and they were interested in taking me.”

    On top of his personal tragedies, Lindsey faced an uphill climb academically because he had been passed through high school at Overbrook because of his prodigious basketball talents.

    Lindsey finished his three-year prep career there with 1,315 career points and led the Philadelphia Public League in scoring in 2006-07 and 2007-08, but his education was incomplete.

    “I was an outstanding student that just got away with a lot of things because of my basketball status in my high school,” he said. “People let me get away with a lot of things that they normally would let a 16-year old, 17-year-old basketball celebrity in that environment get away with. So it was definitely a mixture of immaturity and just being lazy.”

    In 2010, Lindsey was living in Virginia when he considered junior colleges in Oklahoma, California and North Carolina. The North Carolina option “would have been a distraction being two hours away from home” and “the school in California was on the beach,” Lindsey said.

    “So my mom actually made a decision to send me to Oklahoma,” he added. “She said it was going to be tough. The school was in the middle of nowhere, so she just wanted to see how I would deal with adversity.”

    When Lindsey first arrived at Redlands Community College, head coach Yaphett King picked him up but a tire blow out in his car and they were “sitting out in the freezing cold waiting for a tow truck,” King recalled by phone.

    At that point, King thought to himself, “This kid’s probably going to go home.”

    But he stuck it out and persevered, in part because he related to King, who himself grew up in some tough circumstances in St. Petersburg, Fla.

    After Lindsey’s time away from the game, King noticed that “his timing was off a little bit, he was a little bit out of shape, but you could definitely see that this kid could play because he just had a natural gift of some things that he could do with a basketball.”

    In his one year at Redlands, Lindsey averaged 22.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists and was named a first-team All-NJCAA Region II selection and Region II Tournament MVP.

    “He never lost it,” St. John’s assistant Tony Chiles said. “When I saw him at JUCO, he didn’t seem to miss a beat.”

    When it came time to pick a college, Lindsey considered St. John’s, Kentucky, Auburn and Oklahoma State.

    He chose the Johnnies in part because Chiles had watched him since his sophomore year at Overbrook.

    “Tony was very diligent,” King said. “But I told some other schools about him, and they kind of dragged their feet a little bit. When Nuri kind of took off and blew up, they kind of called back around and it was too late.”

    He’s now one of just eight scholarship players at St. John’s, which opens the regular season Monday against William & Mary in the 2K Sports Classic benefitting Coaches vs. Cancer.

    King says “the sky’s the limit for Lindsey” basketball-wise and he can imagine him playing point guard in the NBA.

    “Definitely,” King said. “He’ll be an NBA point guard. He’s kind of in the mold of a Russell Westbrook. He’s really athletic, really explosive, can push the ball. Can score and get where he wants to. I think ultimately he’ll be a really good defender, too, because he’s got the strength and quickness and toughness to do it, too.”

    Back playing basketball fulltime, Lindsey has put his demons behind him.

    But his memories of his brothers will always remain.

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.