Thursday, March 1, 2012

Random Thoughts: Searching for the next Jeremy Lin...

If you've read this blog before - you'll know that I like to make many wild predictions (on sporting events/stories). Part of the fun in writing what you think may or may not happen is that there really are no repercussions - unless of course you're gambling... but since that's not legal, we'll just stick with the premise that all of this is for fun...

Assuming you've had a pulse in the month of February you've probably stumbled upon the name, Jeremy Lin, who has been the talk of every major news network for the past month. He's made the cover of Sports Illustrated two weeks in a row, has amassed the highest selling jersey in the NBA since January 28th, and has given fans of the New York Knicks hope for the first time in a decade. His underdog story has simply been remarkable. I haven't really taken the time to share my thoughts or opinions on Mr. Lin - mostly because I've been going along for the ride, but the one thing I've noticed is that we as Americans have this insatiable thirst for the underdog. We saw glimpses of it with Tebow during the NFL season and the same could be said of the St. Louis Cardinals' improbable MLB Championship run. Heck, many of my own sports icons and favorite teams were shaped because of their success in the "nobody believes in them" role (see Larry Bird, Buffalo Bills History, Paul Pierce, Fab Five, New York Yankees of the mid 90's, and hopefully this years' Drexel Dragons Mens Basketball team).

This is the point in the blog where I come in and give my thoughts on who that next underdog story could be.  If you've followed basketball in the city of Philadelphia, you should know the name Zack Rosen. The Senior point guard has been a 4 year standout for the University of Pennsylvania Quakers, all time leader in assists in the programs history, and arguably one of the best players to ever don a UPenn uniform (I'm actually not sure about that, but it feels right). He's been the leader since the first day he stepped on the court having started in 110 out of the 112 games that he has logged in his collegiate career. Not bad for a kid that according to was overlooked by schools such as Stony Brook, St. Francis (N.Y.), Rutgers, and Iowa St - how's that for a list of powerhouse basketball progams?

This is where the similarities to Lin begin. They've both been overlooked based on appearance alone - I'm not usually one to quip about size but PG's at the next level usually come in around 6'3" and 200 lbs. Rosen measures in at a whopping 6'1" (real life 5'11") and 170 lbs. Also akin to Lin (that rhymes) - they both logged four full years of college at two of the best institutions our country has to offer, Harvard (Lin) and UPenn (Rosen) - their intelligence won't be questioned. Basketball-wise Rosen is extremely fundamental in his ability to handle the ball, well-versed in the pick and roll (same system that Lin has found success in with Mike D'Antoni), and has improved his shooting each year in college from 35% as a freshman to an impressive 45.8% this year. Quite frankly, the list of accolades for both players goes on and on and on and yet every scout across the country continues to overlook them - in fact, Rosen doesn't rank in ESPN's Chad Ford's top 100 NBA prospects - 136th to be exact, 27th ranked PG - with his only "negative" being lacks elite level athleticism. Sound like someone you know?

But arguably the biggest similarity between the two is their minority backgrounds. It would be foolish to think that Jeremy Lin's popularity has nothing to do with the fact that he's an Asian-American with a humbling background story. Rosen, who has been raised as a devout believer in Judaism would definitely appeal to a growing Jewish population in the U.S (estimated 2.1% or 6.6 million of the entire U.S. population). Only 2011 NL MVP Ryan Braun who is referred to by many as the "Hebrew Hammer" or as I like to call him "Passover the roids" (get it!? Passover... Jewish Holiday...yeah? okay let's keep this moving) comes to mind when thinking about current Jewish Athletes. With a quick Wikipedia search I've found that only Jordan Farmar and Omri Casspi identify themselves as Jewish players in the NBA. 

A good friend of mine played for and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2010. When I told him that I was interested in writing this blog he immediately agreed with this sentiment and jumped at the opportunity to help out. I asked for some insight on his views of Zack and he had this gem to offer: 

The first true test of my friendship with Zack came in a game against, coincidently, Jeremy Lin and the Harvard Crimson. Unlike Z, I didn’t clock in 34mins per game throughout my career at Penn and thus when I saw the hardwood, I literally got hard wood (get it?). After hitting a baseline 12 footer (in Jeremy Lin’s face might I add), my swag was at an all time high. Following a time out called by Coach Allen, I sprinted to the baseline to fulfill my duties as the in-bounder. Juiced from my recent 12 footer (don’t forget on Jeremy Lin...ahh you won’t forget!), I grabbed the ball from the ref, turned, and gave the crispest chest pass of my life…right to an un-anticipating Zack, who turned and received the ball square in his forehead. No full court press, no defensive pressure, just a turnover by me off of my point guards dome and out of bounds. Luckily for me, I think about 98% of the fans weren’t paying attention, the tv cameras missed it (though I could have been on Sportscenter’s Not Top 10…that would have scored with the ladies, right?), and my coach wasn’t looking at the backcourt at the time. Instead of yelling at me and turning to the coach to get this scrub out of the game, Zack embraced me (in a completely heterosexual way), and told Coach Allen to keep me in the lineup.

If that isn’t the sign of good character, I don’t know what is. On a serious note though, Zack is by far the most hardworking athlete that I have encountered in my career. When I watch Jeremy Lin, I see similarities in the way he and Zack play. Both are fantastic off the pick and roll, being able to attack the big man before the guard is able to recover. Lin is more athletic than Zack, there is no question about that, but I will argue that Zack is a better shooter and passer than Lin. Additionally, Zack is a true point guard who is used to having the ball 80% of the time (probably more like 90% for the Quakers). People have to keep in mind that Lin wasn’t a PG at Harvard and got most of his numbers playing off the ball, which makes what he is doing for the Knicks that much more impressive. The one thing holding Zack back will be his build and athleticism, but as we have seen in players like JJ Barea and Steve Nash, that can be overcome. Will he get his opportunity? I don’t know, but I can tell you this; Z has never run from a challenge.

I'll close in saying that the opportunity for the "Rosen-sation" is there - all Rosen needs is a shot. Having admired Rosen's game for the last 4 years - I'll be enthusiastically rooting that, like Lin, he gets his chance to shine at the next level.


  1. This is phenomenally well written. A great piece and good insight and anecdotes.

  2. terribly written, poor insight, too close to the person involved