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Local basketball star returns home for unexpected shot at NBA

Jeremy Lin’s basketball career began just a few miles away from Stanford in a Palo Alto YMCA gym. Now Lin’s star is rising as a new signee to the Golden State Warriors–but he hasn’t made it yet, he says.

Lin’s story began as a standout youngster. He took his talents to Palo Alto High School, where, as a senior in 2006, Lin led the squad to a state championship over powerhouse Mater Dei. Despite averaging 15 points, seven assists, six boards and five steals per game, Lin did not earn a Division I basketball scholarship but caught the eye of the coaching staff at Harvard, which does not offer athletic scholarships.

The early years left an impression on Palo Altans.

“I’ve known Jeremy for a long time through church and he has always been a great leader of my youth group,” said longtime friend Elaine Liu, who attended the Chinese Church in Christ with Lin in Mountain View. “He has always been a great listener and inspiration at church.”

Lin also inspired other former Paly students, such as Patrick Liu.

“It’s amazing to have seen such an amazing player develop in such a short period of time,” Liu said. “He’s like a little hometown hero.”

At Harvard, Lin began to gain national attention. Playing mainly as a point guard in his senior season, Lin averaged 16.4 points, 4.5 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 2.4 steals and was unanimously selected for the All-Ivy League First Team. After Lin’s 30-point performance against 12th-ranked Connecticut, coach Jim Calhoun said, “I’ve seen a lot of teams come through here, and he could play for any of them.”

After four years at Harvard, including three as a starter, Lin graduated as the college’s all-time leader in games played (115) and fifth in points (1483).

As a guard at Harvard, Bay Area native Jeremy Lin, above, made waves as one of the school's best-ever players. Now, after not being drafted by any team, the Palo Alto High School alumnus is getting a chance in the pros with his hometown Warriors. (Chuck Myers/MCT)

Although Lin enjoyed a stellar senior season at Harvard, he was disappointed on draft day when he wasn’t selected in either round. Donnie Nelson, the president of basketball operations for the Dallas Mavericks and the only person from the NBA to contact Lin before the draft, gave him the opportunity to play in the summer.

Lin, 21, turned heads in the summer league, especially in a televised match-up against the number-one overall pick, John Wall. After his performance against the Wizards’ point guard, calls came his way.

Soon after, the Golden State Warriors, the team Lin grew up watching and had cheered for during the “We Believe” stretch in 2007, signed him.

The son of Taiwanese immigrants, Lin is only the fourth Asian American to be signed in the NBA since 1947 and has garnered significant interest and loyalty around the nation. At a game last season against Santa Clara, many fans sported shirts that read, “Welcome to the Jeremy Lin Show.”

“Just my whole story is so unique,” Lin told SI.com. “Not only Asian-American, I’m from Harvard, from the Bay Area, I was virtually unknown coming into the draft scene. Not once–never–was I on anybody’s draft board coming in.”

He said he appreciates his fans, but he plays for the love of the game.

“When I put that pressure of pleasing everybody else, the Asian community and every other Asian, that’s when I lose my joy for playing the game,” he said, “and that is when it’s not fun for me anymore because I am playing for the wrong reasons.”

And though he has inked a two-year deal with Golden State, Lin said his work is unfinished.

“I still need to prove I can play in the NBA, and I have not proved that yet,” Lin said.

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