To Jeremy Lin’s high school coach Peter Diepenbrock, the Asian-American’s sudden rise to NBA fame means much more than a box score or stat line can tell.
Lin’s success is a nearly unprecedented feat for the Asian-American basketball world. After going undrafted out of Harvard, he made the New York Knicks’ starting lineup and was thrust into the biggest media market in professional sports.
“It was more than just he was Asian-American,” Lin’s high school Coach Peter Diepenbrock said. “It was more he wasn’t African-American and he wasn’t white.
“It was something different.”
Lin’s on-court play also has Fresno State students interested in his background and what he has brought to the NBA.
“Yes, it is nice for people to see a new race playing well in the NBA,” senior Fresno State student Alan Wileman.
“To go from mostly unwanted high school player to mostly unknown college player to the NBA’s newest sensation is amazing,” senior Jacob Rayburn said.
One Fresno State student even thinks that Lin’s lack of playing time in the early part of his NBA career can be attributed to his Asian-American descent.
“I think race does play a factor in his popularity and played a factor in [Lin] not getting many opportunities [to play in his first two seasons in the NBA],” senior Eric Herzog said.
Before signing with the Knicks this season, Lin, 23, was cut by the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets.
On Feb. 4, Lin came off the bench and scored 25 points and led the Knicks to a victory over the New Jersey Nets. The next game Lin was named the starter and proceeded to win seven of the Knicks’ next eight games.
Before his Harvard days and before joining the NBA in 2010, Lin played for Palo Alto High School.
Diepenbrock, 48, the former Palo Alto High School basketball coach, has 24 years of coaching experience. Diepenbrock coached Lin at Palo Alto High School from 2002 to 2006.
“He was just an incredible leader and just always telling people what to do and directing people,” Diepenbrock said. “Just like he is doing now, he’s just doing it in the NBA.
“He was very instinctual, [had a] really good feel for the game, and [was a] really good decision maker. Not very big at all only 5-feet-3-inches, 120 pounds as a freshman. He got up to 6-feet-1-inch as a senior, but really got it done on his intelligence.”
Diepenbrock said Lin wasn’t recruited by major colleges because of the recruiting process.
Diepenbrock explained that recruiters are looking for “definitive” statistics, and skills such as size, strengths, shooting, dribbling and passing.
“He wasn’t really about those things,” Diepenbrock said of Lin. “He just won games and made great decisions and I think that’s hard to quantify.”
Rayburn said Lin doesn’t fit the profile of a basketball player, so he had to work harder to “prove” himself.
Herzog said that Lin could have quit anytime. Now with this opportunity he is making the most out of it.
“We have an ongoing conversation about what’s going on, the next game, what he is doing well, what he needs to work on and where his focus is,” Diepenbrock said. “He knows that I am proud of him.
“He knows I love him like a son.”