Lindsey Drew found a second gear as soon as he stepped onto the floor to begin the Nevada basketball season. But an unexpected jolt of energy came from the thousands of fans at Lawlor Events Center.
The home crowd erupted when Drew’s name was announced in the starting lineup during an exhibition contest against Cal State East Bay on Saturday, Oct.19. It was a warm welcome back for the fifth-year senior, who missed the last 20 months recovering from a ruptured Achilles and surgery on both hips.
“I almost shed a tear when I heard the crowd chanting, even for an exhibition game,” Drew said. “It was something I’ll always remember, kind of gave me that aggressiveness.”
Drew has made the most of his return thus far. The 6-foot-5 guard is averaging 14.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists through seven games this season. He was named Mountain West Player of the Week after putting up 27 points, 7.5 assists and 7.5 rebounds per game against Utah and Loyola Marymount.
Drew scored a career-high 30 points in the regular-season opener—and 100th career game— against Utah. His hot start to the season has put him on the map with the rest of the Mountain West competition.
Head coach Steve Alford saw Drew’s potential to start the year, and he’s lived up to sky-high expectations.
“I’ve said it since being hired, he has the chance to be the best point guard in the Mountain West,” Alford said. “I still believe that. He’s gotten off to a great start for us.”
With several new faces on the floor, Drew has become a vocal leader. He’s joined by Jazz Johnson and Nisré Zouzoua as the only returning seniors from last year’s team.
“I have noticed the gap between our youth and experience on this team so it’s definitely something I’ve worked on,” he said. “I’ve been trying to communicate with the guys on the floor and just help out any way I can. It’s important for me to do that.”
Drew has been relied upon to carry the offensive load of the team for the early part of the season. Drew has absorbed the offensive load with an efficient attack formed 3-point range and finishing through contact.
Joined by Johnson, both players have formed a potent backcourt for the Wolf Pack.
“He’s been impressive to say the least,” Johnson said. “He’s efficient, passing the ball well and rebounding…he’s done his part and has played a huge role.”
Drew is adjusting to a new scenery at Nevada, from Alford making his debut in the silver and blue, to six new players beginning their first season.
It’s a drastic change from when Drew arrived at Nevada in 2015. The Wolf Pack made three-straight NCAA Tournaments during his first three years. Drew suffered an Achilles injury during his sophomore year and missed the final ten games of the season.
But, in his mind, last year’s setback only paved the way for an even better comeback.
“It’s just given me time to focus on everything,” he said. “We have a whole lot of new things to cover so it’s up to me to adjust and find where I can step in and help.”
With Drew back on the floor at 100 percent, he’s made an immediate impact on the court.
“Honestly I’m feeling good,” he said. “Coach has been pushing us this past week, but I’m feeling good. It’s great to be back on the court and ready for these games.”
Isaiah Burrows can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SagebrushSports.