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Lin grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and earned Northern California Player of the Year honors as a senior in high school.After receiving no athletic scholarship offers, he attended Harvard University, where he was a three-time All-Conference player in the Ivy League.
During his senior year in 2005–2006, Lin captained Palo Alto High School to a 32–1 record and upset the nationally ranked Mater Dei, 51–47, for the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Division II state title.Joe Lacob, incoming Warriors owner and Stanford booster, said Stanford's failure to recruit Lin "was really stupid. [If] you can't recognize that, you've got a problem." By his junior year during the 2008–09 season, he was the only NCAA Division I men's basketball player who ranked in the top ten in his conference for scoring (17.8), rebounding (5.5), assists (4.3), steals (2.4), blocked shots (0.6), field goal percentage (0.502), free throw percentage (0.744), and three-point shot percentage (0.400), and was a consensus selection for the All-Ivy League First Team.He made 27 points, 8 assists, and 6 rebounds in an 82–70 win over the 17th-ranked Boston College Eagles, three days after the Eagles defeated No. In his senior year (2009–10), Lin averaged 16.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 2.4 steals, and 1.1 blocks, and was again a unanimous selection for the All-Ivy League First Team.Undrafted out of college, Lin reached a partially guaranteed contract deal in 2010 with his hometown Golden State Warriors.He seldom played in his rookie season and was assigned to the NBA Development League (D-League) three times.The last Ivy League player to play in the NBA was Yale's Chris Dudley in 2003, while the last Harvard player was Ed Smith in 1954. Diepenbrock said that NBA tryouts do not play five on five.
Lin acknowledged that the workouts were "one on one or two on two or three on three, and that's not where I excel.
He was waived by the Warriors and the Houston Rockets the following preseason before joining the New York Knicks early in the 2011–12 season.
Lin continued to be played sparingly and again spent time in the D-League.
The coach also noticed that Lin always arrived early for practice and left late.
Lin studied and rehearsed Steve Nash's and other top point guards' pick-and-roll plays.
Harvard and Brown were the only teams that guaranteed him a spot on their basketball teams, but Ivy League schools do not offer athletic scholarships.