Harvard graduate Jeremy Lin blazes unique trail to Golden State Warriors

"He's one of those guys that has a chance to keep getting better," said Warriors General Manager Larry Riley of point guard Jeremy Lin. (Laura Rauch/associated Press)
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By Jorge Castillo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 28, 2010

After eight U.S. presidents, 19 Supreme Court justices and 41 Nobel laureates, it looks like Harvard University can chalk up a different achievement this summer: its first grad in the NBA in 57 years, and just the fourth ever.

Jeremy Lin, who signed July 21 with his hometown Golden State Warriors, also will be the first Asian American in the league since 1947, when Wat Misaka, a Japanese American, became the first non-white player in what was then known as the Basketball Association of America.

"Trying to make the NBA is one of the very few areas where a Harvard degree won't necessarily help," Lin said matter-of-factly.

Lin is aware of the significance of both accomplishments, but doesn't want the labels. He was usually the only Asian on the court when he captained Palo Alto High to a California state championship in 2006 and during four years at Harvard, where last season he was part of the 0.5 percent of Asian American Division I men's basketball players.

Lin just wants to be known as a basketball player.

"I'm aware of all that but I'm just going to be focused on playing basketball," said the 6-foot-3 Lin, a devout Christian who was born in California after his parents immigrated from Taiwan. "I'm a basketball player. Everyone wants to focus on me being Asian American but me being a basketball player, me being Christian, is more important to me than just being simply Asian American."

According to basketball-reference.com, only 40 Ivy Leaguers have played in an NBA or ABA game. Lin would become the first Harvard grad to play since the 1953-54 season, when Ed Smith appeared in 11 games with the New York Knicks.

In his brief time on the Dallas Mavericks summer league team earlier this month the topic was unavoidable.

"That was my name, they just called me 'Harvard,' " said Lin, who graduated with a degree in economics. "Anytime I messed up it was, 'Aw, I thought you went to Harvard.' "

Going into June's draft, Lin was considered a borderline pick. He had worked out for eight teams, including the Warriors, and received some positive feedback. But he didn't have any expectations when he watched the draft at home with his family, high school coach and pastor.

He went undrafted and was invited to play on the Mavericks summer league team, where he impressed in five games off the bench. He averaged 9.8 points and 3.2 rebounds in 18.6 minutes per game. Against John Wall and the Wizards he scored 13 points and won over the crowd.

"I gained a lot of confidence," said Lin. "I think I got to show my game and how I play in a five-on-five setting and not in a one-on-one or three-on-three setting like the workouts were."

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