Jeremy Lin continues to take the NBA world by storm, but at least one person isn’t shocked by the way the New York Knicks point guard is performing. That man is Tommy Amaker, who coached Lin at Harvard, and had a long glimpse of the star before he took his game to the next level. Amaker once told Lin that he and John Wall were the two greatest playmakers in college basketball. They laughed at the time about it, but it appears perhaps he wasn’t that far off. Tommy Amaker joined ESPN Radio New York with Mike Lupica to discuss why he’s not surprised at Jeremy Lin’s success, his all-around game, the story about telling him he was as good as John Wall, the race part of the story, Lin as a student of the game and how he can use this story in recruiting to Harvard.
Are you shocked that Jeremy Lin has been so impressive?
“I’m not. I know that he’s kind of taking the world by storm and it’s been a sensation here, as everyone has been able to see and say. But we’ve seen this kid do some spectacular things, we’ve seen him do it on the big stage for us, when he was here at Harvard, at our level. Not that that’s the Knicks and Lakers, of course, but we’ve seen similar things. I just think it’s been a little bit of a perfect storm with the injuries and style of play. … I just think he obviously has a knack for, when the stage is big and the lights are bright, he has a knack for performing at a very, very high level.”
Take us back to those days when you told him he wasn’t a point guard, that he can play with or without the ball:
“He was somewhat of a throwback in that regard. Today you see everyone is kind of labeled as a point guard, a two guard. He was a guy that could play the backcourt. … People could just play the game. This kid, when you looked at some of the numbers and stats he put up, he was one of a very few, if not the only one, in the country, as a senior, that was in every single major statistical category, in the top 10 in this conference.”
Tell us about the story when you told him and your whole team that you thought that he and John Wall were the two best point guards in the country:
“I said that I thought that he and John Wall were the two best playmakers. We were all snickering and laughing and even he was and the other players were. It was a fun little thing and I wasn’t trying to be Nostradamus here or anything. … I just wanted to make him aware of how talented he is and how good he is and to think of himself on that level. That’s easy for me, I was his coach and believed in him, but we really wanted him to think of himself as that kind of a special player with us. And he certainly was.”
Did you think the fact that he was Asian-American worked against him coming out of high school?
“We didn’t know of him coming out of high school. He was recruited here prior to us getting the Harvard coaching position. We knew of him and certainly inherited him and coached him his sophomore year through his senior year. But you can see, sometimes, even maybe to the level of trying to become an NBA player, where we all have stereotypes or labels. … The fact is I think he’s breaking down those barriers.”
What kind of a student of the game is he?
“I think he is going to get better. One of the neat things about anyone in life in any position, we talk to the team a lot about concentration, composure and confidence, and I think he has that. I think that concentration of him studying, he’s a student of the game. He loves basketball. … I just think he’s got a sensational career ahead of him. Is it going to be off the charts the way it’s kind of been lately? Who’s to say that? But does he belong? I think he’s shown that he does.”
Can you use this story in recruiting now?
“I think it really shows, just like so many other things in life, that you don’t have to be from this part of the country, you don’t have to be from this part of the world, you don’t have to be this color or look like this, you don’t have to go to this school or that school to be an NBA player. I think it just shows [you need] the right fit, the right time and finding a place where you belong. … This kid has shown, obviously, that all these things are possible, certainly when we speak from the perspective of being a Harvard student-athlete.”