Harvard was the right choice for Jeremy Lin 

February, 13, 2012
2/13/12
11:12
AM ET
Over the weekend I nervously checked my files. Admittedly, I didn’t know if I wanted to find notes on Jeremy Lin or not. What if I had actually seen him and rated him poorly? Well, it’s happened before and it will in the future. However, I’m relieved to say that I didn’t see him. Turns out those that did see him in high school couldn’t have predicted what he is doing with the New York Knicks.

I’ve known Portland Pilots head coach Eric Reveno for the last 15 years. I consider him to be a skilled evaluator and thorough when it comes to recruiting. He was an assistant at Stanford when Lin played within a few football fields of campus. As well as I know “Rev” he knows me and the style by which I evaluate, so I asked him what he thought I would have given Lin.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Lin
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaJeremy Lin was never even Ivy League Player of the Year at Harvard.
“In your one-line deal you would have said something like low-major plus but not the kind of kid you’d bet against,” Reveno said.

Seems like that was about the consensus of Lin as a senior. The local low- and mid-major schools weren’t interested -- not only because they weren’t sure he could play for them but academically, this kid was going to an elite institution.

Stanford wanted him to walk-on, which seemed pretty fair given what I’ve heard regarding his high school career the past few days.

“He looked like a guy you’d like to have walk-on at Stanford; a guy Harvard would love to have,” Reveno said. “Back in the Stanford heyday, he wasn’t someone … well, you maybe would give him a scholarship but that was because of fit not because of overall ability. He was good, he was a winner.

“We wanted him to walk-on and he would have been good for us as a walk-on but they were hoping for a scholarship. He would have been great to have and he could have been one of those guys that wound up with a scholarship. To me though, the choice he made was low risk, let alone with a Harvard education. Basketball-wise, it was the lowest-risk choice.”

As a freshman at Harvard, Lin played 18 minutes a game and averaged 4.8 points on a team that went 12-16. Tommy Amaker took over the reins of the program during Lin’s sophomore season and that’s the first time then-Harvard and current VCU assistant Will Wade was introduced to Lin.

Amaker was happy to have him in the fold but it wasn’t until a year later that he told Wade that Lin might be able to make it as a pro.

“During his junior year he was really good and that’s when Coach Amaker said he could make money playing basketball,” Wade said. “He started getting confidence his junior year. We believed he was better than he thought he was. He didn’t know how good he was.”

Reveno makes a great point. What if Lin had signed with a big school? Would his confidence have been able to get on track? Wade said they had more confidence in Lin than he did in his own game. That line of thinking opens the door to similar players in similar circumstances. Would Steph Curry have turned into Steph Curry “giant killer” had he gone to Virginia Tech and not played as a freshman? How much is experience -- which leads to confidence -- worth in the development of talent?

“The lesson for me is the value of going to a place that’s right for you,” Reveno said. “Had he gone higher he would be working at a desk right now. Just my opinion. I don’t know if he would have played at Stanford. Maybe he scraps and fights but maybe he doesn’t blossom that way. He went somewhere he could play for four years.”

There’s a profile myself and Drew Cannon have been working on for a few years regarding mid-major players. While it is impossible to project with certain accuracy, we’re finding these gems have some common traits and they aren’t as complicated as one might expect.

  • Coachable with outstanding basketball IQ (Lin. check)