A Taiwanese-American basketball player has led his college team to its best start in school history and become one of the most talked-about players in US college basketball circles.
Senior guard Jeremy Lin is averaging 17.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists in pacing Harvard University to an 11-3 record so far this season, the best start in the Ivy League school’s basketball history, and his play is drawing the attention of US media, which often treat Ivy League basketball as an afterthought.
Two months into the basketball season, Lin was featured on ESPN and in Time magazine, and has been mentioned as an Ivy League Player of the Year candidate and possible NBA draft pick.
He was also among 30 players on the mid-season candidate list for the prestigious John Wooden Award, whose recipient is regarded as the national player of the year.
Unaccustomed to the sudden fame and media exposure, Lin and his family have preferred to stay as low-profile as possible, Lin’s father, Lin Gie-ming, said in a telephone interview from his Palo Alto, California, home.
The son is living a basketball dream for the father, a basketball junkie who left Taiwan for the US in 1977 and received a doctorate in computer engineering at Purdue University before settling down on the US West Coast.
The elder Lin played basketball with his three sons every Monday, Wednesday and Sunday and before long, Jeremy was outplaying brothers Joshua and Joseph and his father.
Lin led Palo Alto High School to a 32-1 record and the California state championship in his senior year in high school and won virtually every player of the year award in northern California.
But Lin also had to endure racial discrimination on and off the court and the stereotype that “Asians can’t play,” his father said.
That was probably why big-time basketball schools such as Stanford, located within arm’s reach of Lin’s house, and UCLA showed interest but never offered him a scholarship, his father believes.
Jeremy finally enrolled at Harvard, a school that has never been known for its athletic prowess, figuring that he could play Division I basketball and focus on academics at the same time.
Lin’s father said he never had to worry about Jeremy’s ability to balance basketball and academia because his son always showed maturity in devoting enough time to both.
Lin saw limited success as a freshman but improved dramatically in his sophomore year, recording 12.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists.
His breakout year came last year, when he averaged 17.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game and was the only player in the US to rank among the top 10 players in his conference in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, blocks, field goal percentage, free throw percentage and three-point field goal percentage.
But Harvard’s 14-14 record in the 2008-2009 season kept Lin under the radar. Now, with his team having gone 11-3 to start the season Lin is getting noticed.
“Some folks who haven’t seen him play are probably wowed by some of the things he can do, but we aren’t. That’s probably the best compliment I can give him,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said after Lin scored 30 points, including 22 in the second half, in a 79-73 loss to Big East powerhouse UConn in December.
After the season, Jeremy will sit down with his parents and discuss the future. There will be many options for him: playing in the NBA, playing overseas or enrolling in Harvard’s MBA program.
The younger Lin will not rule out playing ball in Taiwan or representing Taiwan in international competition, but he will take his time to review his options.
“Jeremy understands Mandarin very well and took Chinese at Harvard. He speaks a little Mandarin but I believe he will pick it up quickly if he puts his mind into it,” Lin’s father said.