Harvard grad got game: Asian American looks forward to NBA Draft

By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly

Harvard's Jeremy Lin (4) drives by Boston College’s Biko Paris, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Boston at the end of last year. Could Lin be a new face in the NBA? (Photo by Elise Amendola/AP)

Harvard education. NBA skills. Jeremy Lin has both.

Lin, a 6’3”, 200-pound point guard, is training in anticipation of the NBA draft next Thursday, June 24. Lin, a Taiwanese American, would be rare in a league dominated by white and Black players.

“Jeremy loved soccer and basketball even before the age of 5. He would go to all of his older brother’s practices and just do the drills on the sideline by himself. When he was in the fourth grade, we realized that YMCA basketball was no longer challenging for him, so we started looking for higher level basketball leagues,” said Lin’s mother, Shirley.

Lin’s parents immigrated to the United States from Taiwan. They are both computer engineers. Lin’s father, Gie-Ming, is a huge basketball fan and shared this love with his three sons. When Jeremy began playing Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball, Shirley and Gie-Ming realized that Jeremy had a talent. Even with talent, Shirley doesn’t forget the hard work and effort that her son has put in since he was young in order to one day play in the NBA.

Lin says that his family was different than many others from Taiwan. “I can understand Chinese when other people are talking to me, and I know enough to carry on a conversation, but our family is very different from traditional Taiwanese families,” Lin explained. “We were raised in a non-denominational Christian background, and my brothers and I played sports all the time growing up, which was rare to see in Taiwanese families.”

During his senior year of high school, Lin led his team to a high school state title in California. He was named the state player of the year. However, he didn’t receive any scholarship offers from Division I basketball schools.

He decided to leave the West Coast to play at Harvard in Boston. “Cal (University of California-Berkeley), Stanford, and UCLA offered me walk-on (to play on the team but no scholarship) opportunities, but no one offered me a scholarship,” Lin said. He had been hoping to attend college near home in California, but since he didn’t receive any scholarship offers, he opted for Harvard due to its academic reputation.

Academics over athletics

Despite being a basketball star in high school, Lin’s parents stressed that his education come first. “They fully supported me in basketball, especially because my dad really loved the sport,” Lin said. “[But] they stressed academics over athletics. If I didn’t care [about] my schoolwork, I couldn’t play basketball.”

Shirley remembers having to tighten the reins on Jeremy’s gym time when he was in high school. “Our house rules have always dictated that academics come before activities [and] basketball. The only thing above academics is Sunday worship. If the grades ever dropped due to time management issues, then we would cut down on their time spent in the gym and with friends. Jeremy’s usually self-disciplined. However, like any other youth, during his sophomore and junior basketball seasons in high school, we had to cut down his Sunday night open gym time with his church friends because he had to get a head start for the following week’s homework.”

Harvard

Lin had a solid career at Harvard capped with a stellar senior season. He led the Crimson in points, steals, and assists. “Jeremy was our most dedicated player, and his passion for the game is one reason why he became one of the better guards in the nation,” said Harvard’s head coach Tommy Amaker. “His enthusiasm and hard work were contagious on our team, and he crafted his basketball skills to make himself a versatile player and a threat from anywhere on the court.”

Lin has received a lot of verbal taunts based on his ethnicity. He said many taunts came when Harvard played other schools in the Ivy League. “I don’t really want to get too specific,” Lin said when asked about it.

“But it’s just stereotypical stuff about Chinese people.”

Lin graduated with a degree in economics. After his freshman year, he learned how to manage his time properly and balance the rigors of schoolwork at Harvard while playing basketball.

A devout Christian, Lin wants to get into ministry and possibly become a pastor after his playing days end. He sees himself working with underprivileged communities and doing nonprofit work.

Prepping for the Pros

Lin has been spending most of his time training for the NBA draft. He compares his game to that of Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic. “We’re both effective in the pick and roll, and we play with a high basketball IQ, but we’re not freak athletes or anything like that.”

While Lin relies on his family for emotional support, his agent assists him with the business side of basketball. Lin’s basketball agency includes former Seattle Supersonics guard Gary Payton. Payton has given Lin advice on what it takes to make it in the NBA. “He mainly talked to me about staying low and in a stance at all times on offense and defense. He said that [is] one of my biggest weaknesses.”

The New York Knicks brought Lin in for a workout to determine if he could be a potential draft choice. Other NBA teams may bring in Lin for workouts to see if he can fit in with their rosters.

If Lin is drafted, he will be a role model for many aspiring Asian American basketball players. “In a sense, I know that I am somewhat of a role model because the Asian American community has really reached out to me and shown the support.”  Lin maintains that he will not change as he lives according to his Christian lifestyle. If Lin’s name is not called at the NBA Draft, he would like to continue his career either in the NBA’s Developmental League (a minor league for the NBA) or in one of the many professional leagues overseas.

During his senior season, Lin had the opportunity to visit Seattle when Harvard played Seattle University in January. In addition to a win and being the leading scorer in that game, Lin had a memorable dinner. “I got to have dinner at the Space Needle. It was a great experience!” ♦

Jason Cruz can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

3 Responses to “Harvard grad got game: Asian American looks forward to NBA Draft”

  1. Damon says:

    I hope he makes it that would be great to see. Sounds like a great role model.

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