NEW YORK- On paper, St. John’s point guard Nurideen Lindsey and Arizona point guard Josiah Turner seem similar.
Both are 6-foot-3 and weigh in around 185 pounds. Both have had college coaches drooling over their potential since high school. Both find themselves in their first year of Division I basketball.
There are threads that tie the stories of these two young men together, but, looking forward, more will be made about the differences in the futures that they choose to mold, having shaped those futures from a similar clay.
Nurideen Lindsey, whose tragically compelling backstory is well-documented, stopped playing organized basketball for two years, after he dropped out of South Kent Prep (Ct.) in 2008, citing, in part, a lack of determination in the classroom.
His brother, Halim, was murdered in 2009, not long after his best friend died of cancer.
Lindsey enrolled at Redland’s Community College in Oklahoma in 2010 to bridge his transition to high-major basketball.
Josiah Turner was kicked off of his team at Sacramento High School (Ca.), with his coach citing a violation of, “athletic rules and regulations and team rules and regulations.”
It ultimately spelled the end of his career at Sacramento.
He transferred to Quality Education Academy (Nc.) in January of 2011 to finish out his senior season and bridge his transition to high-major college basketball.
Aside from the unique and heart-wrenching story that Lindsey has endured, the core of their two stories are the same: a student-athlete with off-the-court problems, and a world of potential in the gym, who must choose to defeat the former to experience the full benefits of the latter.
Right now, Nurideen Lindsey is on that path.
The Philadelphia native has averaged 16.8 points per game in his first four games with St. John’s, including 18 in a losing effort against Turner’s Wildcats on Thursday night, falling 81-72.
“Nuri is a unique talent,” said St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin when Lindsey signed last Fall. “He possesses an excellent basketball intellect, tremendous point guard skills and an ability to put up big numbers offensively. With regard to intangibles, he is a fierce competitor who brings both experience and maturity to our team.”
In his short time in Queens, he has evolved in the team’s leader and the apple of the media’s eye. At St. John’s media day, his table was surrounded by reporters throughout the event, listening to the mature and humbled Lindsey speak.
Following the loss to Arizona, when being told that the word “underrated” was being floated around to describe his team, he answered simply, “I won’t accept that. I know how hard our team works.”
Then, on the other side of the spectrum, is Josiah Turner.
Supremely talented and physically gifted, he was ranked as a top 20 prospect by most national recruiting services. He is a guard who can score in a variety of ways, handle the ball, and create with the pass.
But non-basketball issues have, at times, overshadowed his talent.
Arizona head coach Sean Miller sat Turner for the entirety of the Wildcats’ 73-63 win over Ball State this past Sunday.
“He’s trying to find his way from where he left high school … on and off the court, making good decisions, working hard every day,” Miller told the Tuscon Sun. “Sometimes, especially very, very early in someone’s career, if they don’t play, it’s a feeling they haven’t had before.”
Turner had eight points on 3/6 shooting from the floor in the win over St. John’s on Thursday night, including a big steal and dunk in transition that helped to ignite Arizona’s second-half comeback.
“Josiah today made a couple plays that he hasn’t made and you can kind of see, two weeks from now, four weeks from now, maybe eight weeks from now, that he can make more of those plays,” said Miller, after the game.
But, once again, his positive strides may be negated by acts of immaturity.
During a heated moment of pushing and shoving, heading into a timeout late in the second half, words were exchanged between the two teams near the St. John’s bench.
Coming from the other side of the court, Turner got into the middle of the action and had to be led away from the situation by Miller and teammates.
Not to say Turner was at fault for the exchange, but his willingness to allow his emotions to get the best of him is the next episode in an ongoing saga for the young point guard.
And, as simple as it seems, that may be what their futures boil down to. Turner and Lindsey both have the tools to, one day, play in the NBA.
The question will be: which player will know how to use them?
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter: @DanielJMartin_