When Ed Cooley visited 2014 star guard Jalen Lindsey on the first day of the September contact period, he made an impression on more than just the recruit.
Lindsey’s head coach at Christ Presbyterian Academy (CPA), Drew Maddux, knows a thing or two about high level talent. In the mid-to-late ’90s Maddux was a four-year starter at Vanderbilt, where he was named to the All-SEC Freshman Team and eventually All-SEC First Team and Honorable Mention All American.
The former sales executive took over at CPA in 2006 and has seen tremendous success, going 169-39 overall and winning the AA state championship in 2012. Over the past seven years he’s served as a college basketball studio analyst for Fox Sports, Comcast Sports and a variety of other networks, while also hosting a radio show on the leading sports talk station in Nashville.
This is a man who has been around all levels of the game, and he kicked off our conversation with his thoughts on the man running the show at Providence: “First off, I was overly-impressed with Ed Cooley. I’m a basketball junkie, a gym rat, who grew up playing at a high level. I’ve been around the game a long time, and been around a lot of coaches, and I walked away so impressed with who he was as a person — his transparency and authenticity.
Ed’s story is one of the great ones that I’ve heard, how he was homeless and taken in. It says a lot about him and the community that embraced him. He’s true to who he is and what he was called to be. He’s a very believable and trustworthy person, which is countercultural in coaching these days.”
Maddux explained that Lindsey’s father, Walter, is a Providence native and his family is very comfortable with the area. Ed Cooley and his staff went to a number of Lindsey’s games this summer on the AAU circuit, and he visited Providence’s campus in July.
“On that visit [Cooley] told Jalen that he would be here on the very first recruiting day [this week] and that he was their priority. It was Ed’s birthday on Monday, but because he made a promise to Jalen he was there. It speaks to the type of program he’s trying to run. Ed and Bob [Simon] have done their due diligence.”
In Lindsey, Maddux sees great potential — and he’s not alone. ESPN has him ranked as the 16th best player in the class of 2014. In an interview two years ago Maddux compared Lindsey to his former high school teammate, Ron Mercer, the Kentucky star and eventual lottery pick (6th overall) of the Boston Celtics in 1997.
When asked about that comparison two years later Maddux noted, “I played in high school with Ron and we’re dear friends still. Jalen was very similar at that time [when both were in 8th grade -- Lindsey played varsity as an 8th grader]. His potential is incredibly high, like Ron, but Ron had a rapid development before 11th grade, going from post to perimeter player.
Jalen is on that track, but he’s just a sliver behind. Jalen continues to impress me with his work ethic and his willingness to be great, not just good. He’s always played in the post, so now he’s working diligently on his ball handling and getting comfortable on the perimeter. He’s learning to guard on the perimeter, getting through ball screens and doing the types of things he’s never really had to do.
He’s a great blend of humility and confidence, which is a tremendous trait and a credit to how he was brought up. Jalen can process information quickly and execute on that information.”
What makes Lindsey an elite prospect? ”He has a tremendous shooting touch. He can really shoot the basketball and can make a variety of different types of shots. He’s capable of stretching defenses out to 23-24 feet and can attack the rim with physicality. He’s better at taking contact, absorbing it, and finishing with either hand, which he couldn’t do 18 months ago.
He has a desire to be the best player on the floor, which wasn’t there 18 months ago. His greatest strength is that he’s so very explosive. Jalen is as explosive a junior as I’ve ever seen, and not just in jumping ability, but in transitioning from defense to offense.”
PC Looking at Two Others
While the trip was initially planned as an opportunity to visit Lindsey, Cooley walked away impressed with two other CPA prospects as well.
Once the team started scrimmaging, Cooley’s eye was caught by the young Braxton Blackwell, a 6’6, 205 lb freshman who Maddux notes can play every position. Maddux called Blackwell “gifted, and a tremendous ball handler” before sharing that PC became his fourth offer by the end of the trip.
Also catching the eye was 6’5 Jake Allsmiller (2014), a terrific three point shooter out of Nashville. Maddux coached former Vanderbilt star shooter John Jenkins and places Allsmiller in that category as a shooter. He led Tennessee with 129 made three pointers a season ago, and once he buried jumper after jumper Cooley dubbed him a “burner.”
Maddux was engaging and enthusiastic about the future of his program and it’s easy to see why. With a great, young core and a head coach with vast experience, CPA should be a force over the upcoming seasons. Cooley clearly made an impression this week, and it will be interesting to see if that results in any prospects heading north to play for the Friars.
CPA games can be seen in their entirety at tssaanetwork.com/cpa, including their state championship win.
Email Kevin at firstname.lastname@example.org