Pictured: Jeremy Lin drives for a basket last season in a win at then-17th-ranked Boston College.
SlamOnline Magazine's Dan Totten recently sat down with Harvsrd senior guard Jeremy Lin to talk about his increased notoriety within the college basketball landscape, his Harvard experience and playing for Tommy Amaker. The lengthy Q&A was featured on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2009.
by Dan Totten
Jeremy Lin. Harvard University Basketball. Admit it. You've likely never heard of one and the other is far removed from any semblance of hoop hotbed status. Harvard is also likely far removed from being a possible bracket choice for any NCAA Tournament predictions you might be inclined to make for this season.
While you may not pencil in Harvard as one of your predictions to make the NCAA tournament, if you get the opportunity to see Jeremy Lin play basketball for Harvard this season, by all means do so. Immediately!
Jeremy Lin is a 6-3 leaper, who is now a senior guard on the Harvard University basketball team. His much-touted break-through game came against Boston College last season on January 7, 2009. While a snowstorm swirled outside at the heights that evening, a similar storm of epic proportions brewed inside. That game saw a BC letdown of major proportions, after the Eagles beat nationally ranked and ultimate 2009-2010 National Champion North Carolina just a few days prior.
Lin's stats for that game were 27 points, 6 steals, 3 rebounds, 2 blocks and in case anybody thought he was not thinking of his teammates, Lin had 8 assists. The biggest compliment paid that evening was from Tyrese Rice (now playing professionally in Greece) toward Jeremy Lin. Whenever Rice faced Lin on the defensive end, he stayed 3-4 feet off Lin the entire game -- true testament to Rice respecting Lin's quickness. This respect for Lin's quickness is quite deserved. Lin has slashed his way through the middle and dunked on unsuspecting defenders who chose to layoff him defensively in the past. Lin will have no such luxury this season as many a defense will focus on containing Jeremy Lin.
Granted, BC played an incredible game against the Tar Heels just a few days prior to their January loss to Harvard. It could be argued that such an expenditure of effort against the team that ultimately won the national championship could warrant a bit of a letdown by anybody. Unfortunately that particular January evening not a single Eagles player brought any semblance of their Tar Heel game.
BC went on to post a solid, very respectable 22-12 season record while making the NCCA tournament (suffering a 1st round loss to USC, 72-55). Harvard went onto a 14-14 season record while seeing Lin and graduating senior Drew Houseman(now playing professionally in Europe - Israel) make the All-Ivy league team (Lin 1st team, Housman 2nd team).
Make no mistake the Atlantic Coast Conference Harvard is not athletically. Nor does Harvard present their school (obviously) as focused on athletics. By the same token most other colleges across the nation do not present themselves as being in the same league as Harvard academically. Needless to say, Lin and his teammates brought their A-game against BC. Jeremy Lin and Company dismantled Boston College. Harvard was led by Lin's energy and offensive output. While the BC-Harvard game was a complete Crimson team effort, Jeremy Lin's play and floor leadership that evening was the catalyst that prompted such a complete effort. Lin leads in a quiet unas suming way with his actions doing much of the talking for him.
Lin is a senior economics major now and a basketball co-captain. He continues to make the most of his Ivy League educational opportunity as well as his basketball opportunity with the Crimson.
Third year Harvard Coach Tommy Amaker, in previous public comments about Lin has stated he "loves to coach Lin" and "Lin could have a basketball career after college if he wants." Those are strong words coming from someone with Amaker's basketball pedigree. That background includes two collegiate NCAA championships as a player at Duke as well as two championships at Duke as an assistant coach before he moved into the head coaching ranks at Division 1 schools: Michigan and Seton Hall.
Amaker would know prospective NBA talent when he sees it. Amaker played against and coached many athletes possessing such talent. Tommy Amaker was named the nation's top defensive player in his senior year at Duke. Jeremy Lin would be wise to soak in all he can from Coach Amaker and Lin seems to be doing exactly that. In his college coaching career, Amaker has seen five of his players drafted or signed to NBA contracts, while others have moved on to play professionally in Europe.
This Harvard hoop season should prove interesting with trio of Lin, Oliver McNally and prized recruit Brandyn Curry sharing time in the back-court. Lin is also slated for some time at small forward. Jeremy Lin, Oliver McNally and point guard Brandyn Curry will be a high energy trio working with their experienced teammates in the front court to make it tough for Crimson opponents this year.
Cambridge is a long way from Palo Alto, California for Jeremy Lin. During his Sr. year in High School Lin lead his school to the California State Championship against Cal powerhouse Mater Dei. (Celtics strongman and legend of the 50s and 60s "Jungle" Jim Loscutoff was a Palo Alto product.)
SLAM caught up with Jeremy Lin and in his straightforward and intelligent yet reserved and unassuming way Lin responded to the following questions:
SLAM: You mentioned in a prior interview that
you were interested in Harvard, Stanford or Berkley - were you
recruited by any other Division I schools for basketball?
Jeremy Lin: Harvard and Brown were the teams who told me they wanted me to play for their teams while Stanford and Berkley was more of a walk on situation. Even though Harvard and Brown can't give scholarships I was looking at those Ivy League Schools so I could play or recruited walk on situations at Pac 10 schools.
SLAM: Consider any other schools seriously?
JL: I was just looking at Ivy League Schools or recruited walk on situations at Pac-10 schools.
SLAM: You're a co-captain this year along with
Doug Miller. What does being a captain mean to you?
JL: Obviously it's an honor and a privilege to be able to be a captain. It's not something that we take lightly and it's a once in a lifetime opportunity. We try to lead by example and come out here and set the pace and push everybody.
SLAM: There are seven freshmen on your team
this year. What impact will they have on the team? Impact on the
JL: They definitely will be key for us - they give us a lot of depth, a lot more energy. There will be a time when we rely on the freshman for their energy and for their talents. We have a very talented class coming in. They are very talented, they are humble and they want to learn. I don't know if Harvard has seen anything like this in the last few years. They are ready to learn and they don't think they know it all and that's the best part of being around them and that's going to go a long way.
SLAM: There's a large Duke influence on the
team throughout the coaching staff and beyond. Any chance Coach
Amaker will be scheduling the Crimson against Duke in the
JL: I asked about it and they said Coach K does not like playing against former players, so as long as Coach Amaker is here that's never going to happen.
SLAM: Harvard beat Cornell last February 28th.
They were ultimately the Ivy League Champ and went onto the NCAA.
How do you think you'll fare against them this year?
JL: They'll be very similar to past years, maybe even with some better chemistry. But for us we are a pretty different team this year so I'm not exactly sure how it's going to play out but we definitely have them on our calendar and we are excited and we are going to go out and battle and we'll also be trying to fix our problems from the past.
SLAM: What has surprised you, if anything about
JL: With the new coaching staff it's been an awesome experience, I could not have asked for anything better, it's been a pleasure to be here. I didn't imagine my career going the way it has. I'm really blessed to be in this situation. We are creating a family atmosphere and the guys all enjoy being around each other. Outside of basketball it's awesome because we are all really close to each other. In terms of basketball we know we have not accomplished what we wanted to in the past and we have (the seniors) one year to accomplish those goals, so we'd like to start hanging some banners here.
SLAM: Did you play in any summer leagues last
JL: I played in the San Francisco Pro-Am. That was the only one. You are only allowed to play in one NCAA sanctioned league.
SLAM: What aspects of your game did you work on
over the summer?
JL: I actually played point guard this summer so I focused on my passing and ball-handling and becoming a better playmaker. Here I have more of a scoring role so it should help me here in terms of my working on play-making, it will help if teams are doubling and using ball-screens and things like that.
SLAM: Has balancing a rigorous academic
schedule with a demanding basketball schedule gotten any
JL: It's gotten a lot easier. I am used to it now so I know how to be more efficient and I have improved my time management. It was really hard for me my freshman and sophomore years, but I've gotten a lot better in terms of time management.
SLAM: Last Year was a brutal winter,
weather-wise around Boston and New England - are you used to the
JL: I'm a California guy so I don't think I'll ever be used to it. But I know this is my last one so I won't have to deal with it much longer.
SLAM: What if you get drafted by the Celtics,
will you be disappointed?
JL: NO, I will NOT be disappointed if I get drafted by the Celtics. That will be a dream come true and If I get drafted by the Celtics I'll be so happy I won't even worry about the winters !
SLAM: You've said in other interviews that a
pro career would be a dream- come true. If the NBA or overseas do
not become a reality, would you be open to playing in the NBA
JL: Yeah, I definitely would consider playing professionally. I love the game, I have a strong passion for the game and that's definitely what I am looking at right now.
SLAM: Coach Amaker has a tremendous hoop
background. What's he like to play for?
JL: It's really humbling sometimes, when you look at his resume he's accomplished a lot, I'm still kind of shocked that I get to be coac hed by someone like that every day, his resume speaks for itself and everybody respects him when he speaks, he's our leader and everybody listens when he speaks, there's no doubt about that and he's our leader and the head of our program.
SLAM: One of your interests is working with
underprivileged communities - have you done any more of that
JL: No, I have not been able to do it during college, I did it in high school
SLAM: Favorite NBA team growing up?
JL: The Warriors, I'm from Palo Alto so I love the Warriors.
SLAM: Favorite NBA player growing up?
JL: Growing up was definitely Michael Jordan, the Warriors did not have anybody like Jordan. Now it's probably LeBron and Dwayne Wade, I love how they score and make their teammates better.
SLAM: To your knowledge, has any NBA teams
contacted Coach Amaker about you?
JL: I don't know it may have happened, there may have been scouts around, but I'm not sure...I'm not worried about that right now. We have a season to focus on.
SLAM: What have you enjoyed most about your
classroom and academic studies?
JL: I like my sociology class, I like meeting a lot of non basketball people, non-athletes, that's very interesting seeing all the different types and personalities and talents of students and people - It's amazing all the people you can meet, seeing all the different talents and types of people with different backgrounds.
SLAM: Being an Economics major have you had a
chance to attend any lectures by authors Noam Chomsky or Howard
JL: No, I have not had that chance.
SLAM: What is the most intense college opponent
you've played in terms of fan noise and fans participation during
JL: Cornell and Yale. Harvard - Yale speaks for itself in terms if the rivalry. Cornell has had success and their gym is always rocking and just packed.
SLAM: You play Boston College on December 9 -
after the game you had against them last January, will they pay
special attention to you?
JL: Yeah, I'm fully expecting them to come for our throats - that's how we want it, we don't want other teams looking at us as if we are going to be an easy win, we're gonna give them our best shot and they are going to come out and try to destroy us and we have to be able to stick together and play hard and we'll see what happens
SLAM: Have you had an opportunity to attend any
Celtic games during your time here in the Boston Area?
JL: I went to some Celtics game before they got the Big 3. I got to Kobe play the Celtics and I saw opening night after they won the championship.
SLAM: Will your family be able to attend your
January 4th game at Santa Clara?
JL: Yeah, Yeah, family and friends, I am excited for that one - hopefully a lot of family and friends at that one.
SLAM: You are 3,000 miles from home - you've
said you miss your family - what else do you miss most about home
while you are here in school?
JL: Family is by far the biggest one -Obviously my friends, but they are scattered right now, I miss my home church, I really miss the weather, In-N-Out Burger, being able to drive places -- here everybody walks, especially in Cambridge, the people mostly, my family and friends.
SLAM: Did any of your High School teammates go
on to play college ball?
JL: Yes I had Brian Baskauskas - he played at Amherst and he's playing in Denmark now and Blake Schultz he's a senior right now at Williams.
SLAM: ESPN named you one of the country's most
versatile players - your final stats certainly bear that out - what
does your versatility mean to this year's Harvard team?
JL: It's hard; I am honored to be named that but at the same time we were not winning much. It's an honor but when we were not winning as a team it just does not mean that much. Right now we need to focus on team defense and rebounding to win. It does not matter if we are not winning.
SLAM: Any thoughts on your upcoming home opener
against William and Mary?
JL: They beat us last year really well at their place so ......we're looking to battle and have a better game, it'll be our first game at home and we want to have a better game and hopefully people will come out and are pumped up about the season.
SLAM: That's about it for now. Thanks so much
and best of luck.
JL: Thank You.