Jeremy Lin thinks being Asian-American hurt college basketball scholarship offers

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Jeremy Lin didn’t play college basketball on a scholarship — Harvard doesn’t offer athletic scholarships.

Lin was a noted high school player — he led Palo Alto High School to the California state championship and won a number of state awards. But Stanford in his own back yard didn’t offer him a scholarship, nor did UCLA, Oregon or any other Pac-12 school. Lin had the grades, SATs and resume to get into Harvard, so he went East.

We now know Lin as the guy who was good enough at Harvard to get a shot at NBA Summer League, where he turned heads and got some shots in the NBA until the perfect storm came together and “Linsanity” hit New York.

But why was that talent not recognized out of high school. Lin was frank in discussing that with Charlie Rose on 60 minutes that aired Sunday night.

“Well, I think the obvious thing in my mind is that I was Asian-American, which, you know, is a whole different issue but … I think that was a barrier. I mean … it’s a stereotype.”

Did that also play into him not getting drafted? I don’t think so (we’ll get to that) but the marketing master David Stern said yes on 60 Minutes (via CBSNews.com).

“”I think in the true sense the answer to that is yes,” Stern said. “In terms of looking at somebody … I don’t know whether he was discriminated against because he was at Harvard (he said with a laugh) or because he was Asian.”

Lin averaged 17 points a game shooting 51.9 percent his senior year at Harvard — but there were a lot of a holes in Lin’s game. You saw this even at Summer League as he tried to make a roster — he could get into the lane but didn’t finish well, he turned the ball over, he wasn’t great defensively and his physical skills were average for the NBA. You had to wonder how much he could really develop to overcome those weaknesses. Yet scouts can often focus too much on what a player can’t do and not enough on what they do well (I can be guilty of that, too) — Lin had an obvious feel for the game and his style of play excited fans.

Which is why he got a chance. Maybe there was some stereotyping, but I got the sense at the NBA level it was simply a case there were better draft gambles to take, guys with higher ceilings. Or so it seemed at the time — clearly he could overcome those deficiencies. Drafting in all sports is an inexact science. I’m not going to speculate on why he didn’t get a college scholarship, but my sense is recruiting, like drafting, is never perfect.

That said, Lin is changing perceptions. And that alone is great for basketball in general and the NBA particularly.