The most noticeable thing about Ricky Lindo Jr. when he checks into a Maryland men’s basketball game may be his shorts. They’re impossible to miss.
Double-rolled around his waist in a style he’s maintained since he played at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, D.C., Lindo said it feels wrong when he doesn’t wear them that way. And though some of his teammates wear their shorts a little shorter than usual, too, Lindo isn’t worried about them stealing his style.
“No, no, it’s my own swag,” Lindo said.
No matter how he wears his uniform, the 6-foot-8, 200-pound freshman’s play throughout the first three months of the season has made an impression. During the Terps’ seven-game winning streak from Dec. 29 to Jan. 18, Lindo was so integral to the Terps’ success that head coach Mark Turgeon made him a permanent part of the rotation, helping assuage some of the Terps’ lack of frontcourt depth.
Outside of the team’s two starting big men, freshman forward Jalen Smith and sophomore center Bruno Fernando, Lindo’s 13 minutes per game are by far the most among the Terps’ frontcourt players. The other reserves, senior center Ivan Bender and sophomore forward Joshua Tomaic, see little playing time.
“He’s been really good, especially on the defensive end,” Turgeon said. “And rebounding, he’s been terrific. He locks in and he’s versatile, so he can do different things — switching screens, switching ball screens, whatever, if need be. It’s really helped.”
Lindo’s stats — 1.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 0.5 blocks per game as of Feb. 13 — don’t jump off the page, but his consistency is undeniable. He’s third on the team in rebounding and he’s pulled down four or more rebounds in 14 games this season.
His increased role all comes down to his energy, according to Lindo. Whether it’s grabbing a defensive rebound, blocking a shot or taking a charge, his style of play is second nature.
“I’ve been playing like that since high school,” he said. “It’s really just what I do. It’s why they brought me here.”
Lindo showed he belonged against Nebraska Jan. 2. Up by two with 3.8 seconds remaining, Turgeon opted to leave Lindo in the game in place of the starter Smith. The freshman fought through a screen, sprinted into the paint and knocked away a game-tying lob aimed for Cornhuskers forward Isaiah Roby.
“He didn’t even know the screen was coming and somehow he got the ball out of the air,” Smith said, recalling Lindo’s game-saving play. “He’s just a great defender and that’s what our team needs at this point.”
Doing the “little things and dirty work,” as Lindo called it, has helped him earn Turgeon’s trust.
“It can’t be just one practice I’m rebounding and the next I’m not, so I just have to keep working and being consistent,” he said. “And be ready when Coach Turgeon calls my number.”
Turgeon has done just that, often bringing Lindo in to give Fernando a rest early during the first half of games.
Lindo’s emergence has been a revelation considering where he was last summer. In August, he was coming off his senior season at Wilson, playing AAU ball with DC Premier and mulling whether he should attend prep school for a year and reclassify to the 2019 class. The additional year would have given him time to cultivate more college offers while getting stronger and more mature, he said.
That all changed when Lindo received a call from Turgeon, who needed another big man and offered him a scholarship. Lindo was so surprised, he had to hide his excitement about the possibility of putting on a Maryland jersey, the same jersey worn by players he looked up to like program legends Juan Dixon and Byron Mouton.
“I never expected him to call me, but when he did, I was really excited and tried to hide my emotions,” he said.
When he arrived on campus, Lindo joined a team that featured the nation’s seventh-best recruiting class for 2018, according to 247Sports. His transition was eased somewhat by already knowing several players on the team, including freshman guards Eric Ayala and Serrel Smith Jr., both of whom he matched up against on the Under Armour Association circuit. Lindo had also faced junior guard Anthony Cowan — a former St. John’s College High School (D.C.) star — as a sophomore at Wilson.
“I just remember when he first got here,” Turgeon said. “The guys would come into my office. I was like, ‘Who is playing well in pick-up?’ and they’d say, ‘Ricky, Coach. He’s really good.'”
Turgeon said he considered redshirting Lindo because of how young he was — he turned 18 in September — but the decision not to do so has paid dividends thus far.
“He’s been a lot more than we were anticipating when we signed him in August,” Turgeon said. “So for him to give us what he’s given us, it’s great.”
To his credit, Lindo understands the position he’s in.
“Obviously, I’m really young, youngest on the team,” he said, “so I just make sure to bring that energy and eventually my offense will come.”
Lindo has shown signs of the offensive player he could become, hitting 3-pointers during road games against Purdue and Minnesota. He nearly notched a double-double with eight points and 10 rebounds against Radford Dec. 29. Turgeon said there is a lot of untapped offensive potential in Lindo for the rest of this season and beyond.
“I do think there’s a big upside between now and when the season ends offensively for him to start helping us more,” Turgeon said. “We talked about that. But it takes time. … He works with us every day on shooting the ball. I think he’s going to be a really good shooter for us in time.”
The freshman has already proven he can score at the high school and international level. He averaged 13.4 points a game at Wilson. He also poured in 22.5 points and grabbed 12.3 rebounds a game representing the Panamanian U-17 national team in the 2017 Centrobasket U17 Championship tournament. In the third-place game, he exploded for 39 points and 19 rebounds during a win against Mexico.
Lindo, whose parents are Panamanian, holds dual citizenship.
It’s only a matter of time before Lindo starts to make an impact offensively, according to Fernando.
“Obviously, we would love to see him do a lot more things on offense, but you’ve got to wait for your turn. But he’s been doing great and just playing a role and just doing the little things to help us win,” Fernando said.
“Some shots haven’t been falling his way, but we keep telling him to shoot it and make sure that he’s going to make the next one,” Smith added.
With his summer decision now in the rearview, Lindo said he made the right choice in joining the Terps.
“I’ve always wanted to be here,” he said. “For a while, I didn’t think it was going to happen, but this summer I really felt like I can really be here and be a big impact on the team.”
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox
Issue 251: February 2019