Is Knicks Star Jeremy Lin Such a Big Surprise?

on February 20 2012 3:57 PM
Jeremy Lin
Here's where to watch New York Knicks Linsanity on Cable TV. Reuters

The sudden rise of New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin has stunned many inside the National Basketball Association and those who watch the league on a regular basis.

The very notion that an undrafted point guard from Harvard could change the fortune of the Knicks literally overnight and become a global sensation is a beautiful story. But it's not exactly shocking. Just look at Lin's history, and it's easy to see that he was a player of magnitude long before he got a meaningful shot at playing time in early February, which he ably cashed in.

Consider only what happened in early January 2009, when Lin was playing college ball. Lin's Harvard Crimson visited crosstown rival Boston College for a game. BC was ranked No. 17 in the country. The Eagles had upset then-No. 1 North Carolina three days before. Harvard is a member of the Ivy League. BC plays in the ACC. Geography is the only reason the teams could even be called rivals.

BC was a heavy favorite. But Harvard had Jeremy Lin.

Read the postgame words following that January night in 2009 from Ted Kirby, writing for The Harvard Crimson, the school's student newspaper: Led by yet another terrific performance by junior guard Jeremy Lin, who posted a game-high 27 points, Harvard was able to notch its first ever win over a ranked opponent, ending Boston College's 10-game winning streak in the process.

Harvard won the game 82-70, and the point guard to watch in that BC-Harvard game was supposedly the Eagles' Tyrese Rice, an All-American. Against No. 1 North Carolina three days before, Rice had 25 points. With Harvard's Lin covering him throughout the game, Rice was held to three points until the 4:02 mark before finishing with 14.

Harvard had just eight wins the season before. The program had never beaten a ranked team. It was easily outmatched against Boston College, and playing on the road. Yet Lin, wrote Kirby, quite possibly had the game of his career. The junior posted an unreal stat line, shooting 11-of-16 from the floor, dishing out eight assists against two turnovers, and adding six steals to flabbergast the Eagle ballhanders.

Rice, by the way, didn't make it in the NBA. Most recently, he signed a contract with BC Lietuvos Rytas of Lithuania after playing a season in Germany.

The next year, during Lin's senior season, the Knicks star put on a similar show -- proving himself against top competition yet again. Harvard was playing Connecticut, a perennial collegiate power. The Crimson lost the game 79-73, but Lin scored 30 points against nationally ranked UConn, while grabbing nine rebounds with three steals.

Said UConn coach Jim Calhoun after the game of Lin: He's one of the better kids, including Big East guards, who have come in here in quite some time.

Considering the talent Calhoun has witnessed over the years coaching UConn, that was saying something.

So while Lin might have caught many off guard with his sudden rise to stardom, he had already proven he could play the game with the best. All Lin needed in the NBA was the opportunity. He found that in New York, and the rest is history.

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