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Cambridge Hoops

February 5, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

Jeremy Lin going up against Deron Williams yesterday

[Bill Kostroun/Associated Press]

That hotbed of college basketball, Cambridge, Massachusetts, is having quite a year, what with Harvard ranked #23 in the ESPN/USA Today poll, #26 in the AP poll, and likely to move up after a pair of league wins this weekend, while MIT is ranked #5 among Division III schools. Exciting times for Cantabrigians, as well as former Cantabs like me.

The best basketball player in Cambridge during my decade in residence (and my two subsequent years in Boston) didn’t play for Harvard or MIT. He starred at Cambridge Rindge and Latin, right next to Harvard: Patrick Ewing, locally famous long before he headed off to greater fame with Georgetown and the Knicks.

Second best? Maybe James Brown, a college classmate of mine who had been hotly recruited out of DC’s national basketball powerhouse, DeMatha. He passed up the big-time schools for Harvard, where he was all-Ivy in his three varsity years but couldn’t lead Harvard to a league title. He would go on to a different sort of fame, becoming the sports broadcaster and TV personality better known as JB.

And now Harvard has become the Ivy power JB couldn’t make them forty years ago. They tied Princeton for the league championship last year, narrowly losing a painful playoff game for the automatic NCAA tournament bid and being passed over for an at-large slot. This year, undefeated in league play and with an overall 20-2 record, Harvard has a good shot at an at-large bid if it fails to win the Ivy title.

Plus, recent Harvard alum Jeremy Lin may be at the start of a successful NBA career, in his second season, after last night’s breakout performance with the Knicks. Howard Beck explained in today’s NYT:

At some point in this frantic and peculiar season, a less likely, less expected story may arise from the chaos. But it will be difficult to beat a night when an undrafted prospect from Harvard took over Madison Square Garden, outshined three of the N.B.A.’s biggest stars and ignited an instant love affair with New York.

It happened Saturday night, although even the 17,763 in attendance might still doubt what they saw.

Jeremy Lin, whose unusual résumé is more well known than his game, emerged as the Knicks’ momentary savior, packing the box score with career highs and leading his team to a stress-relieving 99-92 victory over the Nets.

Lin scored 25 points, nearly doubling his previous career high, and finished with 7 assists and 5 rebounds, energizing a Knicks offense that desperately needed a boost. He outscored his celebrity teammates, Carmelo Anthony (11 points) and Amar’e Stoudemire (17 points), and outdueled Deron Williams (21 points), the Nets’ All-Star point guard.

Rapturous chants of “Je-re-my!” filled the arena. Every fourth-quarter basket was met with a booming, “Jeremy Linnnnn!” from the public-address announcer, Mike Walczewski. When the final buzzer sounded, Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” blasted from the arena sound system in tribute.

Don’t forget MIT. Alex Wolff wrote at SI Friday of their unlikely emergence as a D-III power.

Noel Hollingsworth, a 6-9 computer science and electrical engineering major, plays the role of immovable force. Recruited to Brown by First Brother-in-Law Craig Robinson, Hollingsworth transferred to MIT after Robinson left for Oregon State. His presence ensures that teammates Mitchell Kates, Jamie Karraker and Billy Bender get good looks. “The defense has to make a choice,” says Karraker, who leads the nation with 4.5 three-pointers per game. “If they double down on Noel, one of our shooters will get open. If they faceguard the shooters, Noel or Will [Tashman, the other frontcourt starter] will get loose.”

MIT held off Springfield* yesterday, 69-67, for their 20th win against a single loss, marking their fourth consecutive season of 20 wins or more.

The Beanpot hockey tournament — the best of all Boston college sporting traditions — starts tomorrow. BU vs. Harvard in the opening game, BC vs. Northeastern immediately after. For a change, local basketball may be getting more attention.

*Need I point out that Springfield College is the site of basketball’s creation, the one-time home of James Naismith? There’s a reason the Basketball Hall of Fame is in Springfield. See here for some of the history.

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