In 2006 a historically whitebread, scholastically oriented, Northern California public high school, one better known for its Robotics team than any of its athletic ones, defeated Southern California basketball uber-power Mater Dei. The upstart school, Palo Alto High, was led by an athletic 6’2” point guard whose versatile stats (points, assists, steals, rebounds…you name it) were overshadowed only by obvious leadership skills and an almost obsessive drive to win. When said point guard didn’t get a single D1 scholarship offer, the last thing you would think would factor into his being overlooked is race. Basketball, after all, is the most integrated of sports, right? Well, yes…except if that point guard is Asian-American.
Jeremy Lin leads his team in points, assists, steals, and is second (barely) in rebounds. He shoots better than 50% from the field and 40% from the new three point stripe. He just led his team to a 12 point win over the #17 team in the country, a team who three nights previously defeated the seemingly invincible and formerly top-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels. That Lin does this for Harvard has little to do with his basketball prowess and more to do with perception. Lin and the issues of athletics and race when it comes to Asians were recently addressed in an excellent piece in the San Francisco Chronicle. However, in the wake of his leading Harvard to the school’s first victory over a ranked opponent, it bears revisiting.
I remember following Lin that year in which, in the wake of the Mater Dei upset, he was named the Chronicle’s Player of the Year. As with all Bay Area prep stars I was curious as to where he was going to be playing his college ball. Or more correctly, I wanted to know if he would follow former Player of the Year Jason Kidd’s path and lead Cal back to Tournament relevance. When I saw he was attending Harvard, I figured his vital statistics (they did list him at 6’2”) were terribly exaggerated. Using a picture of him standing atop a hoop, like some 6th grade CYO pose, didn’t help.
But Lin is no Spud Webb. He is, in fact, at least as tall as most of the Golden State Warriors’ point guards (So am I, but still…). That no Division 1 school recruited him is a shame. That no Bay Area college (thank you, Ben Braun) recruited him is a crime. That Stanford didn’t recruit a kid who played just down El Camino Real and academically qualified for Harvard is a goddamn travesty. Off the top of my head I can’t come up with any NBA players from the Ivy League beyond Bill Bradley and Chris Dudley, but I sure as hell am hoping Jeremy Lin breaks the mold; there’s something to be said about a kid who exceeds expectations wherever he goes. Of course if Mike Montgomery weren’t working miracles with Jerome Randle this year, I’d just be pissed.
Good luck Jeremy.