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How's This for 'Linsanity'? Jeremy Lin's Parents Met as Students at ODU

The story of Jeremy Lin's sudden emergence as a National Basketball Association star has become a worldwide sensation. The 23-year-old point guard and Harvard graduate has led the storied New York Knicks on a race for the playoffs, while serving as an inspiration as the first Asian American to play in the NBA.

"Linsanity" also, surprisingly, has a connection to Old Dominion University.

Ping Tcheng, a former ODU professor in mechanical engineering, had a young graduate assistant at the university in the late 1970s, a fellow emigrant from Taiwan named Gie-Ming Lin.

"He was quiet and studious, very hard-working," said Tcheng, who retired from NASA in 1995 and still lives near the ODU campus. Tcheng had his graduate assistant working on instruments connected to his research for NASA Langley.

Gie-Ming Lin met his future wife, Shirley, while they both were students at Old Dominion. After earning a master's degree in mechanical engineering in December 1979, he moved on to Purdue University for his Ph.D., eventually becoming a computer engineer and settling in California. While on his several-year journey across the United States, Lin fell in love with NBA basketball.

He passed on that love to his children, taking them to basketball games at the local YMCA, showing them videotapes of stars like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird in action. Lin's son Jeremy combined his dad's passion with his own dedication and athleticism, and it's taken him all the way to sudden stardom in the NBA.

Tcheng had dinner with Gie-Ming Lin when his former student returned to Norfolk in the 1980s. "He did it as a thank you. I don't even remember what we talked about," Tcheng said. It wasn't basketball, however. The former ODU professor had no idea Lin had become so passionate about the American game.

Tcheng actually met Jeremy Lin when his former student brought his family to Virginia Beach in the 1990s, to visit Shirley's sister, who still lives in the area. But the connection really hit home for Tcheng a few weeks ago, when he was in Connecticut.

"I looked at the paper and saw the stories about Jeremy Lin and I knew right away about the connection," he said.

As a fellow emigrant from Taiwan, Tcheng said he's gotten caught up in the excitement, following his former graduate assistant's son as he chases NBA glory and serves as an inspiration to other children of immigrants who fall in love with American sports.

"It's really, really exciting. What a small world we live in."