Jeremy Lin's high school inspired by Linsanity
PALO ALTO, Calif. – The marquee outside the school is broken, so no "Linsanity" tribute can be displayed there. There are no newspaper clippings in the boys basketball trophy case in the Palo Alto High School gym hallway, nor is there a retired No. 4 jersey hanging on the gymnasium wall.
In fact, it appears the only connection is a banner over the scoreboard that reads "State Division II Basketball Champions 2006."
"He was a great player in high school, but I don't think anyone could have imagined this," Palo Alto senior guard Alec Wong said. "Everyone takes pride in it and is proud that he is from here. … Even a lot of non-athletes."
Lin had an elite prep hoops career at Palo Alto long before his surprising stardom with New York. As a senior he led the Vikings to a 32-1 record the 2005-06 season and earned California Division II Player of the Year honors after averaging 15.1 points, 7.1 assists and 6.2 rebounds. He also led Palo Alto to its second state championship with an upset victory over nationally ranked Mater Dei.
Still, the academically renowned school didn't exactly throw a celebratory parade after winning state, according to then-Palo Alto coach Peter Diepenbrock.
"We came back from this incredible upset win and people were saying, 'We should have a rally,' "Diepenbrock said. "But someone said, 'Well, wait a second, do you know what the Robotics Club did yesterday?'
"So people didn't get too excited to be honest with you. There was nothing. Zero."
Despite Lin's prep accolades, none of the nine Division I programs in Northern California offered a basketball scholarship to the elite student with the 4.2 grade point average. At best locally were walk-on opportunities at Stanford, which is across the street from Palo Alto High, and Cal.
"I thought he was a Division II player," said longtime Mater Dei head coach Gary McKnight, who has coached players who went on to the NBA.
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Then-Harvard assistant coach Bill Holden told Diepenbrock during an AAU basketball tournament in Las Vegas in summer 2005 that his program had no interest in Lin. But a couple of weeks later, Holden called back with a changed tune and they began recruiting Lin strongly.
After seriously considering walking on at Stanford or Cal, Lin chose non-scholarship Harvard. He eventually garnered Ivy League first-team honors as a senior and finished his career as the first player in conference history to earn at least 1,450 points (1,483), 450 rebounds (487), 400 assists (406) and 200 steals (225).
Lin signed as an undrafted free agent with his hometown Golden State Warriors prior to the 2010-11 season. But he played sparingly as a rookie and was waived by the Warriors and Houston Rockets this season before being picked up off waivers by the Knicks.
Then the Knicks explosion happened.
Lin went from unknown to overnight star as he led the Knicks to a seven-game winning streak, including six as a starter, in which he averaged 24.4 points, 9.1 assists and four rebounds. The Taiwanese-American not only was making headlines in New York City, but also was beloved in China and Taiwan, talked about on CNN, raved about by President Obama, was mentioned on David Letterman's top 10 list, blew up Twitter and quickly had his No. 17 become the NBA's hottest selling jersey.
His play also landed him a surprise late invite to the Rising Stars Challenge, pitting the NBA's top rookies and sophomores against one another during All-Star Weekend in Orlando.
Even with Lin's first loss as a starter coming Friday night against the New Orleans Hornets, "Linsanity" is still running high worldwide and back at his old school nicknamed "Paly." Palo Alto High teachers even wore makeshift Lin T-shirts when playing against the senior class in a basketball game at a rally last Tuesday.
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"It's remarkable what's going on," Palo Alto High principal Phil Winston said. "It shows that hard work, perseverance and having a little faith in yourself can go a tremendously long way. On campus there is a palpable vibe on this 'Linsanity.' It's pretty exciting."
Said Palo Alto senior forward Israel Hakim: "It's shocking to come from Paly and go to Harvard to the NBA."
Paly's long list of distinguished and notable alumni includes San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, actor James Franco, folk singer Joan Baez, Digital Underground rapper Ron "Money B" Brooks, businessman and philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr., singer Grace Slick and former NBA player Jim Loscutoff, who won seven titles with the Boston Celtics.
But none is bigger right now than Lin.
"Now people will say (Palo Alto High) is where Jeremy Lin is from. Usually, it's James Franco. But now it's Jeremy Lin," Hakim said. "We talk about it every day. People act like they know him, like they grew up with him. It's pretty funny."
It's also because of Lin that Wong, who is of Chinese descent and 5-foot-9, is now considering continuing his playing career in college.
"I feel a definite connection," Wong said. "[It] is an inspiration seeing someone so similar to you with so much passion and drive. It shows how far it can get you. It definitely gives me hope.
"I haven't really decided on my future yet. I'm definitely going to college, but I'm not discounting the possibility of playing in college because of him."
The still-stunned Diepenbrock will see the "Linsanity" with his own eyes Sunday in Madison Square Garden when Lin and the Knicks face the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks.
"It's pretty heavy stuff," Diepenbrock said. "It's surreal. He's my guy and for all these things to come together and for him to do the same things he did for me in the NBA, nothing seems quite real."
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