Setting a New Learning Curve

Jan. 3, 2012

Written by Alex Folsom, Kansas media relations student assistant

LAWRENCE, Kan. For Kansas basketball freshman Merv Lindsay life has always been about two things: school and basketball. Unlike many of his basketball-playing peers, Lindsay has always put as much emphasis on his studies as he has on his basketball game. He credits this life-long routine as the reason he has been able to effectively balance basketball and school early in his college career.

“It’s definitely an advantage being able to balance both because when you get here (to college) you need to be able to balance both,” said Lindsay.

The 6-7 guard from Moreno Valley, Calif., also credits his parents with helping him learn to value his studies as much as his time in the gym.

“(Studying) was not forced, but you have to have good grades in my house,” Lindsay said. “I guess that was kind of a gift.”

Though his parents expected him to succeed in the classroom, Lindsay never felt pressure from them. Instead, his mother and father allowed him to succeed on his own terms.

“Once my sophomore year came and they saw that I was getting it done the trust level was there,” Lindsay said. “There wasn’t too much pressure because they knew I would get it done eventually.”

Like many of KU’s student-athletes, Lindsay has taken full advantage of the tutoring services provided by the Kansas athletics department. Lindsay and his fellow teammates have tutoring sessions everyday except Friday evenings and on Saturdays, with a different tutor offering services for different subjects. Even for a committed student like Lindsay there are still subjects that are hard to master.

“The one I definitely take advantage of the most is my math tutor,” said Lindsay, who is undecided on a major. “Math has always been the subject that I could never get. Once I got to high school I could never get it, but in middle school I was good.”

Lindsay also notes that many people do not realize that athletes at the college level spend as much time in tutoring as they do in the gym. Still, there are days when it is hard to stay on top of all the responsibilities that come with being both an athlete and a student at a major university.

“I think everybody has those days; you say `I want to do this instead of that,’ but in the end it’s a responsibility so you do what you have to do,” explained Lindsay.

Coming to Kansas was not only a change in the level of competition on the court and the work in the classroom. Lindsay also had to adjust to new surroundings in the Midwest. The California native had never been to the Midwest before he visited Kansas and its basketball program. One major difference he found was the surrounding landscape.

“There weren’t any mountains,” Lindsay said of his first impressions of Kansas. “There are so many mountains in California. The one thing that was the same, though, was the heat. It was definitely hot.”

Lindsay, who considers himself close to his family, is still adjusting to the time away from them. His dad has handled the distance well, but his mom still does her best to keep in touch everyday.

“My mom is the one that texts me everyday,” said Lindsay. “We’re pretty tight. My sister moved to the East Coast so I talked to her a lot (already). We’re a pretty close-knit family.”

Having just turned 18 years old in August, Lindsay is the youngest member of the men’s basketball team at Kansas and, at times, he catches flack for being younger than the rest of his teammates.

“People always call me `babyface’ or something like that, but it has never been too much,” the Canyon Springs High School graduate said.

Lindsay added to the taunts from his fellow Jayhawks himself by making a mistake with the team’s Game Ready treatment machine on the team flight to New York last month. The Game Ready houses ice and water and is used for treatment on players who are recovering from injuries. Like many freshmen before him, Lindsay was responsible for insuring that the machine ended up on the team plane. Once aboard the plane, he placed the Game Ready into the overhead compartment.

There was only one problem, the Game Ready could not fit when standing on its end, so Lindsay did what anyone would do, he laid it on its side.”(After placing the Game Ready in the carry-on compartment) I go sit in my seat in the last row,” recalled Lindsay. “We are getting ready to take off and we’re taxiing to the runway and as soon as we start moving, we picked up speed and all this water just came out of the carry on. It was like a waterfall. It got on (media relations director Chris) Theisen.”

Lindsay hoped that no one would suspect he was responsible for the early flight mess.

“I’m sitting back there with my headphones on and I was shocked,” said Lindsay. “Nobody knew it was me.”

As the flight attendants attempted to help Theisen clean up, Lindsay pretended to sleep in the back of the plane.

“I saw them get the Game Ready and I drop my head with my hood and headphones on and I’ve got my head on the headrest like I’m falling asleep.”

Lindsay would have been fine, but KU assistant coach Kurtis Townsend bumped him.

“I look up and it’s Coach T and he says `Did you flood the plane?’ and I said, `No man’ and he says `The Game Ready has ice and water in it. You can’t put it on its side.’ And I said `my bad,'” Lindsay remembered. “I didn’t know that’s what was going to happen though because it was in a case and it was zipped up.”

Despite Lindsay’s youth and early-season mistake, he has grown close with his teammates after just a few months on campus, noting that the team is usually all together outside of team functions.

“I’m never with just one person,” said Lindsay. “It’s always three or four of us. When we are done doing whatever, we always end up with 14 or 15 (of us together).”

Lindsay’s close bond with his teammates and his experience balancing his responsibilities on and off the basketball court will only aid him as he continues to adjust to his new surroundings.