Jeremy Lin & Fundamental Basketball

Four years ago, I watched the improbable upset, as Palo Alto High School and their star Jeremy Lin beat perennial power Mater Dei to win the California DII C.I.F. Championship. Now, thanks to some praise from Fran Fraschilla and a great article by Dana O’Neil, college basketball fans are learning about Lin, now a star guard for Harvard.

The article is great on several levels, from an old-school approach to learning the game to using basketball to assimilate in a new culture.

Lin is a do-everything guard who learned the game from his father who never played basketball or watched basketball until he was an adult.

Armed with videotapes of his favorite players, Gie-Ming studied the game with the same fervor he studied for his Ph.D.

“I would just imitate them over and over; I got my hook shot from Kareem,” Gie-Ming said, laughing.

When Gie-Ming had children, he took them to the local Y to teach the game to them.

Jeremy followed, and then youngest brother Joseph joined in what became a three-nights-a-week routine. The boys would finish their homework and around 8:30 head to the Y with their father for 90 minutes of drills or mini-games.

Forget that all of the players on those videos had long since retired, that the guy with Kareem’s hook shot wouldn’t hit Abdul-Jabbar’s armpit. Gie-Ming recognized what so many other youth coaches have forgotten over time: The foundation for success is the basics.

“I realized if I brought them from a young age it would be like second nature for them,” Gie-Ming said. “If they had the fundamentals, the rest would be easy.”

Lin has the characteristics of a successful player:

Jeremy was special. He had his father’s passion, his own inner motivation and a frame that would sprout to 6-foot-3. A good enough scorer to play 2-guard, Jeremy also was a savvy enough playmaker — thanks to his dad and Magic — to play the point. He’s a solid outside shooter, but his dad, Julius and Kareem conspired to give him a reliable game around the rim.

However, he did not develop these skills through constant games, personal trainers, camps or college scholarship dreams. Instead, he’s old school in more ways than one, a player who played and through his love of the game, developed into a great player.

“All this time he was growing up, I never thought about Jeremy playing in college or professionally,” Gie-Ming said. “I just enjoyed watching him play. I’m just so proud of him and so happy for him. I told him my dream already has come true.”

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