The spotlight always seemed to just miss Cedrick Lindsay.
When Gonzaga put together arguably its best season in school history, going 34-1 en route to the WCAC, D.C. city and Alhambra titles, it was Lindsay who came off the bench as the sophomore sixth man. Three years later, when Richmond made an improbable run to the Sweet 16 of the 2011 NCAA Tournament, Lindsay totaled 11 key but mostly overlooked points as a budding freshman in two tournament games.
The local class of 2010 — which includes current Los Angeles Lakers point guard Kendall Marshall (O’Connell) and Duke teammates Josh Hairston (Montrose Christian) and Tyler Thornton (Gonzaga) — has excelled, but this season, the unassuming yet efficient Lindsay began to emerge. With an average of 18.3 points, Lindsay stood as a favorite for Atlantic 10 Player of the Year and had positioned the Spiders for a return trip to the tournament.
But in the first half of a February contest against VCU, both Lindsay and the Spiders felt themselves again fading to the background.
“[VCU] got a steal and went on a break and when everybody ran past me, that’s when I realized my knees weren’t where they needed to be,” Lindsay said during a recent interview. “I felt a sharp pain, but I could still walk so I thought it was fine.”
His stat line of 21 points said as much but when Lindsay limped off the court, it marked his last game in uniform. The next day, the senior learned that he had torn the meniscus in both of his knees, prematurely ending his college career and ultimately spiraling the Spiders to a 19-14 record that left them outside of both the NCAA and NIT fields, which began play this week.
“For me and the coaches, we’re heartbroken because Ced did everything right in his college career,” Richmond Coach Chris Mooney said. “He’s a good student and a good teammate, so it doesn’t seem fair that this is the way it has to end for him. But his perspective and outlook has been incredible.”
Lindsay’s viewpoint regarding the injury had little to do with his career and plenty to do with the subsequent impact on his team.
“I was obviously hurt that I couldn’t play,” Lindsay said, “but I’m a little weird because I felt like I was letting everybody down knowing what I could do on the court and how I could help my team. I just felt like I let everybody down.”
A similar selfless attitude colored Lindsay’s game early in his high school career. After noticing Lindsay’s ability to ignite the team on both sides of the floor, Gonzaga Coach Steve Turner tabbed the then-5-foot-10 sophomore guard as his sixth man on a team that featured Thornton (now at Duke), Ian Hummer (graduated as Princeton’s second all-time leading scorer) and Cameron Johnson (now a linebacker for the Indianapolis Colts).
“He could turn it off and on, like (former Detroit Piston) Vinnie ‘The Microwave’ Johnson,” Turner said. “When we needed instant offense, Cedrick could do that. But he also didn’t need to take shots to impact the game. He could guard bigger guys and be that spark off the bench when we needed it.”
Lindsay was also surrounded by big-name talent on the AAU circuit, playing alongside Thornton, Hairston and Eric Atkins (now at Notre Dame). And while Lindsay’s ability to stand out in his role as a multi-faceted guard made him Gonzaga’s top scorer in his final two seasons and drew offers from Richmond, George Mason, and William & Mary, among others, those closest to Lindsay knew he had yet to reach his potential.
“I feel like he’s one of the most underrated players to come from our area,” Thornton said. “He just got it done and was a great scorer that could do a lot of things on the court.”
After serving as a key reserve in Richmond’s run to the Atlantic 10 title and Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament in 2011, Lindsay was named the team’s starting point guard as a sophomore. The 6-foot-1 playmaker’s vast skill-set emerged in the next two seasons with Lindsay twice dropping 11 assists in a game — good for ninth on the school’s single-game list — and tying a Robins Center record with a 14-for-14 performance from the foul line in a win against St. Bonaventure.
“I just started to figure things out, knowing when I needed to score and when to get people involved,” Lindsay said. “It just started clicking.”
Lindsay took a more aggressive approach on offense to start this past season. After scoring a career-high 26 points during a turnover-free performance against Hofstra, Lindsay set a new mark in the next game with 29 points versus North Carolina.
“He and I watch film together a lot and I used to say, ‘Why couldn’t you figure this out sooner? What changed?’” Spiders associate head coach Jamal Brunt said with a laugh. “He would say, ‘I don’t know; things just started to slow down for me.’ Ced is probably one of the most college-ready players we’ve had here.”
Entering Richmond’s Feb. 1 contest against Atlantic 10 10 rival VCU, the Spiders had won four of their last five games and built a 14-8 record against tough competition.
During warm-ups, Lindsay felt a slight pain in his knee, but after stretching it out with the trainer, the senior deemed himself ready for the conference battle. Signs of his knees’ steady decline soon surfaced in his slow recovery on changes in possession, the pain felt when he planted his leg and ultimately, when he twice limped off the floor late in the second half.
“I don’t think any of us thought he had hurt his left knee, too” Brunt said. “When we got the news back that he had torn the meniscus in both knees, we were shocked because he had just played  minutes in a high-intensity environment and scored 21 points.”
Richmond won four of its first five games without Lindsay, but soon the guard’s absence became apparent. The Spiders dropped six of their last eight contests and went from the NCAA Tournament bubble to outside the 32-team NIT field. Lindsay did not appear on any of the three A-10 all-conference teams despite his 18.3 points per game in 22 games ranking second in the conference behind Spiders teammate Kendall Anthony, who made the second team.
Lindsay had surgery to repair his left knee in February, beginning a two-to-three month recovery process that he will undergo again after having surgery on his right knee this summer. Despite the turmoil, he is motivated to make a full recovery and hopes to continue his basketball career at the professional level.
“He was on the verge of something big and I don’t think his career is over,” Turner said. “It’s never been accolades that defined Ced. He’s been overlooked in some situations but he’s only used that as bulletin board material to put in the work and make an impact.”