Playing with a purpose

Nurideen Lindsey, a 6-foot-3 guard and former city scoring champion, is now a first-year sophomore at St. John's.
Nurideen Lindsey, a 6-foot-3 guard and former city scoring champion, is now a first-year sophomore at St. John's. (ST. JOHN'S ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS)

After tragedy, a former Overbrook High star has rediscovered basketball.

Posted: November 15, 2011

QUEENS, N.Y. - One by one, each basketball made its way out the front door of the West Philadelphia row home.

The ball that was scuffed and marked from being pounded into the playground court - gone. The one that swished for his 1,000th high school point - gone. The ball that earned him the nickname, "Too Easy" - gone.

More than just old basketballs, they were painful reminders of a young life that was stolen away.

After the killing of his younger brother, Halim, Nurideen Lindsey couldn't look at a basketball - let alone touch one - anymore. So he urged his mother to rid the house of each and every one.

Then, for 15 months, Lindsey turned away from the game, too.

Now, the former Overbrook High School standout and city scoring champion is back, and he took no shortcuts to get there.

As a 21-year-old first-year sophomore at St. John's University, Lindsey has shown the potential that shined so brightly in the Public League. The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 17 points in his first two games as a starter for the Red Storm.

Since leaving Overbrook after his junior year, life has altered Lindsey's attitude and his jersey number, too. No longer wearing No. 24, Lindsey sports No. 10, the number his late younger brother, Halim, wore at Paul Robeson.

A self-proclaimed selfish high school star, Lindsey has matured into a young man who plays with a deeper purpose.

"I don't play basketball for myself," said Lindsey. "Coming out of high school I was a self-minded person. I think that's why I went down the road I went."

On April 6, 2009, Lindsey's 16-year-old younger brother, Halim Lindsey, was gunned down in their West Philadelphia neighborhood. He was an innocent bystander caught in the violence of a neighborhood that Lindsey said was filled with "negativity."

"The best person you'll ever meet in your life. And this is not me just saying it because it's my brother," Lindsey said of Halim. "He was the ultimate good-guy type of person you want around. He was helpful, open-minded, outgoing, a great kid."

After leaving Overbrook due to personal reasons in 2008, Lindsey was unable to get into Simon Gratz due to transfer rules and instead enrolled in a prep school in Connecticut. Three weeks there, he grew homesick, so he returned to Philadelphia and was again without a high school.

No longer able to honor his oral commitment to La Salle University due to his changing high school situation, Lindsey was unable to enroll at John Bartram High due to academic issues. He then began working for credits in an accelerated program through the school district until his best friend, Kevin Leland, lost a battle with cancer.

Three months later, Halim was killed.

Dispirited by the tragedies, Lindsey said he slipped into depression.

For the next 15 months, he literally didn't touch a basketball. The game that had provided so much comfort suddenly reminded him of so much pain.

"I said, 'Mom, can you get the basketballs out the house?' At that time, basketball just made the state of depression even worse," Lindsey said. "I would look at basketball, and the first thing I would think of is my younger brother."

Five years before his younger brother was killed, his other brother, Jilani, was slain, too. A small tatoo over each eyebrow pays homage to both.

Lindsey said his will to continue trying is a testament to his mother, Gina Schenck.

"Just seeing how strong my mother was dealing with these two situations was unreal," said Lindsey, who was raised without a father. "I saw a lot of people go through similar things and didn't deal with it too well."

More than a year after his younger brother's death, Lindsey earned his GED with the help of Harry Williams, who met Lindsey's mother by chance and reached out to help.

Williams then placed Lindsey in touch with junior college representatives. Lindsey traveled to Oklahoma and sat out a year before starring for one season at Red Lands Community College.

St. John's head coach Steve Lavin was the first to offer Lindsey a scholarship, which kept the Red Storm ahead of other suitors, including North Carolina. The St. John's coaching staff likes Lindsey for his ability to get up and down the court quickly and his shooting touch.

Special assistant Gene Keady said he was impressed with Lindsey's play and expects him to be one of the team's leading scorers.

"I know how many people counted me out and didn't think that I'd be able to get to the point that I'm at now," Lindsey said. "So just having it, every night I think of it and almost cry."


Contact staff writer Matt Breen

at mbreen@phillynews.com

or @Matt_Breen on Twitter.

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