At the beginning of April, Merv Lindsay was a senior basketball player without a scholarship offer. On Wednesday he signed a grant-in-aid agreement to play at Kansas.
Lindsay, a 6-foot-7, 200-pound small forward from Moreno Valley, Calif., will arrive on the KU campus in early July for summer classes with quite a story to tell — one that will not be shared by many players who have committed to the Jayhawks over the years.
Last fall and winter, as KU coach Bill Self and his staff were busy trying to haul in the usual big names like LeBryan Nash (who signed with Oklahoma State), Josiah Turner (who signed with Arizona), Austin Rivers (who signed with Duke) and DeAndre Daniels (who signed with Connecticut), Lindsay was a largely unknown prospect who had no choice but to stay patient. He didn't know why schools weren't interested in him, but he wasn't going to stop trying to get noticed.
"You can't give up on your dream," Lindsay said.
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Lindsay's senior season at Canyon Springs High came and went with him averaging 15 points, 10 rebounds and four assists but still receiving no offers. Of course, college coaches don't spend much time scouting seniors during their high-school seasons. Lindsay, who doesn't turn 18 until Aug. 7, is young for his class anyway, so he began to consider playing a year in prep school. He also thought about trying to walk on to a program.
But before choosing either of those options, Lindsay decided to make one more run at creating a buzz during the spring AAU circuit. The first weekend of April, he was in Milwaukee. The next, Los Angeles. Then Las Vegas and Dallas. During that time, he'd started to hear from schools, and, after Dallas, he received an offer from new Texas Tech coach Billy Gillispie. After all of that waiting, what was he going to do? Turn it down? Lindsay gave Tech an oral commitment.
It didn't take long, though, for Lindsay to open his recruitment again. Lindsay's father, Mervyn, says that he and Gillispie struggled to get a visit scheduled and that it just deteriorated from there.
The Lindsays had heard from Marquette, DePaul and Stanford also. And in early June, KU assistant coach Kurtis Townsend called Merv, asking him to come visit. At first, hearing from Kansas seemed wild. Mervyn knew KU's history well, remembered watching Danny Manning, now a KU assistant, as a player, and now he was going to get to meet him?
Just as it was not in the Lindsays' plans to hear from Kansas, it was also not in Self's plans to be calling them. But KU had lost the Morris twins and Josh Selby early to the NBA draft, and the Jayhawks had not connected on most of their big-name targets for the 2011 class. When Townsend called Merv Lindsay, the Jayhawks had just 10 players on scholarship for next season.
The Lindsays visited Kansas, and, while it was their dream, it did not feel as surreal as one might think. Mervyn Lindsay was impressed with how down to earth the coaches were, and it felt like a place that wasn't so big after all. Father and son visited Marquette next, but when they returned to California, they knew that Kansas was it.
On Monday, Merv called Self and committed to Kansas, becoming KU's 12th scholarship player for next season out of a possible 13.
"Everything just happened so fast," Lindsay said. "My freshman year, everybody said they wanted to go to Kansas. But at a certain point, you've got to be more realistic with yourself. If you asked me three years ago would I be at Kansas, I'm like, no. But now that it's happening, I guess it's meant to be."
Merv is officially a Jayhawk now. On Wednesday, Self issued a press release.
"We are excited to have Merv join our team," Self said. "He has great potential and has the ability to help us this season. He is a very athletic wing who is a good shooter. Like all the incoming freshmen we have, as Merv gets stronger, he will continue to develop."
This freshman class — point guard Naadir Tharpe, shooting guard Ben McLemore, small forward Lindsay and power forwards Jamari Traylor and Braeden Anderson — is not going to grab many preseason headlines. They'll be expected to provide the depth for next year's KU team.
Lindsay, who grew from 5-foot-7 to his current height during high school, says that doctors have told him he could still grow a few more inches. For now, he'll play on the wing, where he is most comfortable as a dependable three-point shooter.
"That's my bread and butter," Lindsay said. "I think that's probably the main reason why Coach Self was really interested in me. He needed someone that could stretch the floor."
Lindsay can easily remember when he was barely on the radar because it was only months ago. Yet, there he was on Wednesday night, dribbling a basketball outside his home and thinking ahead to life as a Kansas Jayhawk.
"I'm so excited to be a part of the family," Lindsay said. "I'm ready to start winning. We gotta bring a national championship back to Lawrence."