Paly grad Jeremy Lin
is now putting Harvard
on the basketball map
Palo Alto High grad Jeremy Lin has become like a cult hero to many and a pretty good college basketball player to anyone paying to the game these days. Along the way, he's helping make a little history.
Four years ago, Lin led the Vikings to their second state title in school history. Now, he's doing special things at Harvard.
On Monday night, the senior point guard heavily influenced ticket sales for Santa Clara men's basketball's first sellout of the season, and its largest crowd for a nonconference game ever.
Surrounding the Broncos' student section was a large contingent of Asians. Many of them wore black T-shirts with "The Jeremy Lin Show" written in white on the back and "We believe" on the front. The T-shirts were the brainchild of former Vikings' hoops coach Peter Diepenbrock.
"My teammates told me it looked like Hong Kong," Lin said of the crowd. "I am thankful for the support. It means a lot to me. People I've never met and people I've known; I'm flattered and overwhelmed. I've never had a game with more support in my entire life than this one."
Lin, one of Harvard's team captains, has helped the Crimson to its best start in 25 years. Harvard also reached 10 wins quicker than in any of the previous 98 years of the program.
The Crimson (11-3) opens its Ivy League season Saturday afternoon against visiting Dartmouth and Lin says that is when Harvard really needs to start taking care of business.
"We have to understand the Ivy League season is the most important," Lin said. "We've had good nonconference records before but then flopped in league play. We can't just think we're good. We still have to work hard every day. We know Cornell is still the favorite and they have been destroying teams."
The Crimson's latest victory, a 74-66 nonconference win over the Broncos, showed why Lin is considered one of the top point guards in the nation. He didn't have a great scoring game but he contributed a career high nine assists to go with four rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots.
"Jeremy is our No. 1 playmaker," Harvard freshman Kyle Casey said after scoring 27 points in the victory over Santa Clara. "When he's out there we want to get him the ball in the middle. He draws a lot of attention."
Lin also learned he was one of 20 players named as a midseason candidate for the Bob Cousy Award, given to the nation's top point guard, and one of 30 finalists for the John Wooden Award.
Lin has team-leading averages of 17.4 points, 4.8 assists, and 2.9 steals. He's second with 5.0 rebounds and owns a .342 three-point shooting percentage on a team-best 17 made long-range shots.
"Jeremy isn't a one-dimensional player," Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating said. "It's why he is what he is and what they are. When your senior leader scores six points in a road game and they win, that's why he's more than just the leading scorer."
Lin has been one of Harvard's top players since coach Tommy Amaker, a Duke grad like Stanford's Johnny Dawkins, inserted him into the starting lineup when the former Viking was a sophomore. Amaker knew a good player when he saw him.
"I wish I could take the credit," Amaker said. "As a coach you get the chance to teach special kids. It doesn't take long to recognize that in people. He showed up here with incredible presence and passion. He's a tremendous basketball player and his game speaks for itself."
Former Stanford star Anthony Goods, who played against Lin two years ago in Maples Pavilion, was on hand for Monday's game along with Diepenbrock and current Paly boys' coach Bob Roehl.
Goods, who worked out with Lin over the summer, scored 17 points and the Cardinal beat Harvard, 111-56, in the 2007-08 season opener. Lin, who led Palo Alto to the state Division II title in 2006, was 0-of-6 from the field, was held scoreless and did not record an assist or rebound before fouling out in the final 30 seconds.
"I remember that game and the experience," Lin said. "I looked at it that it couldn't get much worse. I tried to stay a little more relaxed tonight. It wasn't easy but it was fun and an enjoyable experience."
The anxiety of playing what could be his last game in front of a home crowd was manageable, but just barely.
"Me being a senior was definitely part of it," he said. "I haven't been home in a long time in a basketball sense. This was a chance to reconnect with a lot of friends and past teammates."
Lin and the Crimson have come a long way since that November evening, his first visit as a collegiate player to his hometown.
"I can't say 100 percent for sure that I knew this would happen," Lin said. "You're always unsure with young guys. The last two classes are the most talented recruiting classes we've ever had. These guys come ready to play."
Monday night was Lin's 100th game with Harvard and his 72nd consecutive start. He has appeared in every Crimson game in his four years.